Stay Awake!

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We have to admit it. We are often overwhelmed by the distractions of getting and spending. Because of this we all too often miss the workings of God and the challenges of God that are all around us. We become short-sighted. We can only see what is immediately before us, because we have let our focus become too narrowed.

Time is a human construct. We think of it in measured terms, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, a lifetime. But these are as nothing to God. His realm is infinite and timeless. It is hard to stay awake all the time. It takes a great deal of effort. To be awake in Christ is a 24/7/365 job. To be honest, I find myself sleepwalking an awful lot. At times I seem to be waking up, as if from a daydream. But I am slowly becoming aware of the fact that it is God who is gently nudging me awake. He is saying, ʺWake up! You’re missing all the beauty I have been placing before you.ʺ

We often lose sight of the forest from concentrating too much on specific trees. When we take our eyes off the path, we stumble, or worse, we lose our way. I used to hike in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State with a friend quite often. He had been a ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park during the summers when he was in college and he knew the forest and its flora and fauna like an expert tracker, and I would get an education every time. When we would be on particularly difficult sections of the hike, that also offered some of the most beautiful of views you could ever imagine, he would tell me, :ʺDon’t take your eyes off of the trail. If you want to look at the views, stop and settle yourself, then you’ll be able to see the beauty, and you’ll be able to appreciate it without having your mind half on the trail and half on the view.ʺ This was good mountain hiking advice, and it is good theological advice a well. As Christians, we have to keep our eyes on God. To do this we have to regularly stop, settle ourselves and refocus on him. Then we can look at him and listen to his words for us with our whole minds, our whole hearts, our whole souls. The more we practice this art, the better we get at seeing the Lord’s works all around us and hearing his whispered words in the midst of the noise of our lives.

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This is good. For when we do this we will be better able to see when we are in danger of getting lost in the distractions of our lives. It is this stopping, looking and listening that keeps us in touch with our true selves in relation with God. It is this that keeps us on the right path. If we give ourselves over to the distractions around us and if they take all of our attention, we will stumble, lose the trail and we will be in danger of getting lost. We do not want to be like the servant who has grown weary of waiting for his master’s return, who starts to think of himself or herself as the master of his or her own destiny. That kind of thinking can lead us to do things that are not just toward our fellow ‘servants’ who were not put in charge. We do not ever want to lose the desire to be pleasing to God. We can not know the time the master will come for us. But when he does he will judge us according to our deeds, and his judgment is the only one that counts in the scheme of eternity.

Help us, O Lord, to stay awake. Give us the grace to keep our eyes always on you. Let us be awake to your constant whispering in our hearts, our souls and our minds. Teach us to stop and to settle ourselves in your presence often throughout our day, so that we may remain true to you and to ourselves. We ask this prayer in your name, Jesus. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.