During the early years of our marriage, I found myself growing more and more frustrated by Pat’s seeming inability to hear me when I spoke to him if the television was on. Now, I have never been described as quiet, so that wasn’t the problem. The issue was how effectively he could tune me out when Sports Center was on. I could finish an entire conversation, without realizing he hadn’t heard a word, and then ask, “Well, what do you think?” Only to have him look at me with a blank face and say, “Were you talking to me?” I would get so angry I’d storm away offering some advice… “Ugh! You have the right to pay attention Pat!” Now, after more than thirty years of marriage, we have an understanding; if his eyes are directed towards the TV and anything sports related is on, I know the only way to grab his attention is to first speak his name. I don’t even start the conversation until I know he has turned his attention on me! That just saves us both any aggravation over the frustration of my feeling ignored. (Relationship lesson one: pay attention to those around you when they are speaking to you.)
God has given us a few reasons what we should be paying attention to in regards to our relationships with others as well. In Luke 17 we are told to, “Pay attention and always be on your guard [looking out for one another]. If your brother sins (misses the mark), solemnly tell him so and reprove him, and if he repents (feels sorry for having sinned), forgive him” (vs. 3, AMP). How many “gut feelings” have we ignored because we didn’t want to offend a friend, or we felt it wasn’t any of our business, only to discover there was sin lurking in the shadow? I have had to swallow my pride many times as I’ve listened to someone explain how I had “missed the mark.” When the reproof came from a friend who was full of compassion and love, without condemnation, I was able to receive the correction. We must be willing to listen and if it bears witness, accept it as from the Lord. Likewise, if the Lord puts us on guard towards another, and sends us to them to solemnly speak to them, go in humility and love, full of compassion. Let’s be honest, we all miss the mark at times, that’s why it is important that we value the people God has placed in our lives that can help bring us back. Having a friend show up at just the right time cannot only be encouraging, but also life saving. (Relationship lesson two: pay attention to the "gut feelings" God gives you.)
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes, “For even when we arrived in Macedonia, our bodies had no ease or rest, but we were oppressed in every way and afflicted at every turn—fighting and contentions without, dread and fears within [us]. But God, Who comforts and encourages and refreshes and cheers the depressed and the sinking, comforted and encouraged and refreshed and cheered us by the arrival of Titus” (vs. 5-6, AMP). Paul and his crew were beaten down with conflicts. They had troubles on the outside and were full of fear on the inside and God knew it. He recognized they were becoming defeated and depressed and needed to be lifted and encouraged, so He sent them Titus. If we are paying attention to our family and friends, and follow the Lord’s leading, He just may send us to bring someone comfort and the encouragement they need. He may use us to refresh and cheer the depressed and sinking. (Relationship lesson three: pay attention to the body language of your friends. Notice when they appear beaten down.)
Maybe this week you will be someone’s Titus. Or maybe you just might rescue a friend who may be missing the mark; only the Lord knows what He’s got planned. Whatever it might be, it is up to us to pay attention.