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.
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.