I don't always pay attention. One morning this week I stuck a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave and hit the buttons for one minute, thirty seconds. I turned my back to do something else and when I heard the machine beep I knew I was in trouble. Normally I watch it and stop the microwave after a minute or so when the oatmeal rises in a big bubble and threatens to spill over. I give it a little stir and then watch it as it cooks a bit more and stop it once again before it escapes the bowl. Sure enough, this time my oatmeal had gone berserk and half of it was on the glass turntable. I thought about eating it anyway, but decided to start over instead. This time I watched it closely and paid attention.
Last weekend I had trouble paying attention. I picked up a friend and we went to a writing workshop near Janesville. On the way there I missed my exit from 218 and on the way home I missed two turns before finally getting back on 218. Now, I could give all sorts of excuses, but mostly it was because I failed to pay attention. We were talking and I wasn't watching closely enough for where I had to turn.
Don't we do that quite often in life? We get into trouble when we aren't paying attention. We get busy with all sorts of things - some good, some bad - and suddenly we find ourselves missing an important turn.
In my younger years those missed turns would have upset me quite a bit. I would have beat myself up mentally for quite a while and worried about what my friend thought of me because I had messed up three times. I know I'm at a much more healthy place now because those missed turns didn't bother me very much at all. Sure, I felt a little stupid, but I didn't let it ruin our whole day. Now, if I had stubbornly refused to turn around when I missed those turns, that could have made the day pretty awful. We would have arrived late to our workshop and we may never have gotten home again. Instead, we laughed all three times. We figured out the fastest way to get back on the right road and did it.
We need to do that in life, too. When we miss a turn we don't just keep going in the wrong direction. We need to stop and figure out the fastest, best way to get back on track and then do whatever it takes to get there. When we get back on track we need to pay attention. Whether it's a silly mistake or a decision to indulge in some kind of sin, paying attention to what God is saying will help us get going in the right direction again.
As my friend and I went past Waverly, we were chatting away, but I took a second to announce "I see my exit up ahead and I will be taking that exit." She laughed because she had been just about ready to point it out to me and make sure I was ready for it. We both were paying attention and we made it home just fine.
"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)
Are you good at paying attention or do you make lots of wrong turns? How can focusing on God help you to stay on track and get to where He wants you in life?