Everyone Should Pay Attention to Me!

Craving Attention over the Years

When I was a four year old we visited some friends with a swimming pool. My Dad had been in the water with me for a while, and some of the older kids – teens or so – had taken turns with me as well. After a while everyone got out, with the grown-ups gathering near the grill as they cooked dinner. Me? I wandered back to the pool’s edge.

Then I stepped in.

Splash!

Down I went, but soon I felt myself being gripped and drawn back to the surface, and my Dad unceremoniously plopped me on the pool deck.

“What were you doing?” he asked.

“You guys were supposed to watch me.”

I know the dialog is accurate because my Dad has gotten a lot of mileage out of that story over the years.

***

Coolness was not one of my childhood attributes. Simply put, I wasn’t one of those kids in elementary school. So in fourth grade when I thought I might get to join in with the cool crowd, I jumped at the chance.

We were supposed to be working on a list of questions about something we’d been studying. The teacher wasn’t in the room at the time, and a few of the kids started doing a different list of questions: something about your likes and dislikes.

One boy asked, “What about getting the questions done?”

A girl said, “Let’s get Tim to do them.”

What I thought I heard, though, was “Let’s get Tim to answer these questions.”

So I set down the worksheet and walked over to the small group in the back of the room and waited for my turn. Eventually the boy who wondered about getting the work done said, “So are you already done with the questions, Tim?”

I told them I hadn’t even started. How could I, I thought, they haven’t asked me yet.

“Shouldn’t you get on it? The teacher will be back soon.”

It dawned on me. And so, rather than admit I thought they had invited me in – and still wanting to be part of their group even if not in the way I’d hoped – I said, “Yeah, it’ll just take me a minute.”

I hurried through the worksheet and gave them the answers.

***

I got into student government a bit later on. I even thought I might get elected senior class president, so I put my name in for the election. When it came time for the candidate speeches, my ambition to make it into the top post of the inner circle got the better of me.

I trashed my opponent.

Not badly, but I focused more on him than on my own qualifications. It didn’t go well. For me, that is. He won and I lost.

Getting the Attention I Need

What is it about craving attention? Even now when my introversion seems to grow stronger with each passing day, I still crave it at times. It might be from the crowd (and Jesus had a lot to say about that type of attention-seeking in Matthew 6:1-18) or from individuals, but in either case it’s wrong if I am seeking approval from anyone but God.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10.)

And yet God attends to us in ways that should satisfy us completely.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139:1-6.)

Getting attention from the coolest of the cool kids is insignificant in comparison. And on top of that, did you know that the original Hebrew in verse 17 of Psalm 136 could be translated:

How amazing are your thoughts concerning me! How vast is the sum of them!

Seriously? The sum of God’s thoughts about me are vast? God is an infinite being and his thoughts on everything are without number.

The same psalmist, David, recognized how incredible it appears, that God would give us a thought:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:4.)

Yet God does care for us, he is mindful of us all.

So rather than have everyone to pay attention to me, I think it’s better that I pay attention to the One who is always attending to me, the One who thinks about me all the time.

That’s the attention to crave.

***

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9 Responses to Everyone Should Pay Attention to Me!

  1. Life being the study of attention, I must agree with Beers (2007) in “staying close enough to God that you will always be able to listen to him”.

  2. Colleen says:

    I find this particularly difficult to do. It seems like I spend a lot of energy trying to hide from God so He doesn’t see me. Yes, I get how funny and childish that is.

  3. I so get what you’re saying here, Tim. Even as an introvert I also feel that desire to be seen and validated by others. I write a blog post and get 2 replies. Another blogger I admire writes a blog post and gets 40 replies … and so it starts, churning up feelings of comparison, unworthiness, and other yucky things. It really does help to read verses like the ones you cite here, that remind us that God values and validates us and that we don’t have to seek attention and approval elsewhere.

  4. Heather G says:

    Might I be the disagreeing opinion on this? 🙂

    I think you’re overspiritualizing something healthy and normal, and this creating a religious rule that actually runs the risk of dehumanizing you and other people who receive this way of thinking.

    We are social creatures. Children were designed by God to crave positive interactions -attention – from their parents. Your fear of being ignored was how you learned to care about your parents guidance of you. Seeking your parent’s approval is at the heart of learning how to have positive social interactions with other people, and ultimately with God.

    But having a relationship with God does not remove our need to have connection…positive connection…with other humans. Adam was with God in the garden and still craved other companionship…and God said it wasn’t good for him to be alone. Without attention from other humans, you’d be just as alone as Adam in the garden. No attention means no fellowship, no companionship.

    Seeking approval from man is only bad when it comes at the EXPENSE of approval from God. When Paul says he doesn’t want approval from man, it’s hyperbole…he doesn’t mean he never cared about connection/attention/fellowship/even approval/ from others. He meant that it didn’t compare with how much he wanted it from God.

    I want affirmation from my friends. Its subhuman to be so unfeeling as to not care if someone close to you disapproves of you. But if someone close to me is disapproving of something God wants for me, I will suffer that loss for the sake of Christ. Its not like there’s no cost there though. The whole reason there is a cost…and a reward from the Lord for bearing that..is because people matter to our hearts. And they should. They matter to the Lord and break His heart when they don’t give Him attention and approval too.

    • Tim says:

      I agree, Heather. Support and encouragement and affirmation from friends is one of God’s blessings. This post was about my craving worldly attention. I might not have made that distinction clearly enough. thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so.

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