The day was beautiful – the perfect winter day where we could actually go outside with only a light jacket and enjoy the sunshine. We had been trapped in the house for what seemed like forever due to rain or too-cold-to-enjoy temps, so we headed to the park to enjoy the day.
Of course, as a mom with two children age 5 and under, my hope was that they’d play while I relaxed on the park bench and observed. They don’t understand why mommy wouldn’t want to run up and down the slides with them, so they take turns leading me by the hand and I play for a while, always retreating back to my bench when I think I’ve put in my time.
Eventually they give up on me and find another mom to run through the leaves with them. I give her a quick scan, she’s legit and not there to steal my girls. Whew, I dodged that bullet – running through leaves always creeps me out…spiders and all kinds of gross things hide in leaves. Ah, back to relaxing.
Then, another girl, about the age of my youngest, comes up to me and asks me to start making a pile in my hand of all the leaves she’s gathering. She scouts for a leaf, runs back to me with her face beaming with pride, and gives me the leaf to stack and guard. This continues for several minutes. Every time the little girl runs back to me I’m sure to praise her find, “Oh, wow, that’s a beautiful leaf. Good job!”
The whole time I keep my eyes on my girls, who are still rolling in leaves with this other mom. They wave back at me through all their laughter, I wave back with my free hand.
It finally hits me, sending my heart through my gut. My girls get the tired me, the frustrated me, the me who doesn’t have time for fun, the me looking to only give half my attention. Yet, here I am giving another child my full attention out of politeness.
Isn’t it funny how we do that to the people we love the most? What’s worse is when we do that to God.
“I’m too upset, God, to come to you with what’s weighing down my heart. I need to call my friend and vent.”
“I’ll catch up on my bible study later. What’s on Netflix?”
“Next week we’ll get out of our pajamas and make it to church.”
We know from the bible that He is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14), and He wants us to come to Him first (Matthew 6:33). So why do we sometimes prefer to sit on the sidelines while He’s waiting for us to come to Him? For some, it can be because we don’t like getting out of our comfort zones. Others may forget or not even know that He is always waiting for us (Isaiah 30:18). For others, doubt – in themselves or in God – can be the setback.
We may not even realize when we are forgetting to put God first until that gut punch happens. When that happens, it is the Holy Spirit nudging us back in the right direction and we should take notice and obey (Acts 5:32).
Combat these pitfalls through spending time daily in scripture and joining a small group at your church that can help act as your accountability system. Making these conscience efforts will help fine tune your alert system so you know faster when you’re slipping back to the sidelines. And, never fear, when you do feel this happening, immediately turn to prayer because God is there waiting for you.
When I had the gut punch at the park that day I thanked the little girl for letting me hold her leaves and told her goodbye as I ran to join my own children in the leaves. They weren’t mad at me for taking so long to get over there, instead they shouted and laughed with even more joy. All they had ever wanted was for me to join them. It was a beautiful day that I’ll never forget.
Do you sometimes find yourself giving attention to distractions in front of you, while God is waving you over to delight in Him?
Do you ever feel God leading you by the hand, but you retreat back to your comfort zone? He promises a good life if you follow Him, but you think, nah, that may be too difficult, I want to stay here and relax?
Are you giving God all of you, or half of you?
Do you ever watch your friends, or someone you admire, enjoying a life of Christ out loud and you think, good for them, glad they’re getting their elbows dirty so I don’t have to. You wave at them from the sidelines to encourage them to keep up the good work instead of joining in.
What distractions are you praising, instead of giving your attention and praise to God?
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