Being Aware of God, Self and Others

Many years ago, when my husband and I were new to ministry, a woman came up to me and told me she thought I was stuck up, but after being around me for several minutes, she realized I was just shy. I was a bit taken aback. As an introvert, I often stood around the edge of a room and had to force myself to mingle and talk with people, but I had no idea I might have come across as stuck up, perhaps even aloof and standoffish.

Awareness of God is an essential component of the Christian life, and it follows that awareness of self and others go hand in hand. As God opens our eyes to know him better, he also opens our eyes to see ourselves better. It’s been said that humility is knowing who we are in relation to God. Our relationships can only improve if we can at least sometimes see ourselves as others do and in relation to them. I’m still an introvert, but I’ve learned to be more outgoing and sociable, even when the introvert part of me wants to hide in the corner.

Greater awareness of others can also be learned and is something Jesus seemed to do with very little effort. We, on the other hand, need to learn to listen and observe as we interact with our friends and family. These practices can go a long way in helping us get along and live in peace. 

Awareness of God, self and others might take more effort now than it used to, with all the distractions we encounter, but it’s well worth it. Let’s keep our eyes open and our minds aware of how others see us and how we can love God and our neighbors as ourselves.

Open Our Eyes

Have you ever become frustrated while looking everywhere for something, only to discover it was right in front of your eyes? This happens to my husband when he has his nose in the refrigerator. He’ll ask me where something is and I then point out it’s in plain sight. I’m sure we’ve all done this from time to time, either because we weren’t expecting the item to be so easy to find or because we just have a temporary block in our brains.

Sometimes we are simply lacking awareness about what’s going on. We are often not aware of what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us. Some wonder if he’s doing anything at all. Just as we can practice being more aware of God, we can also learn and practice being aware of how the Holy Spirit engages, teaches, reminds, delivers and makes connections to help us participate more fully in kingdom life now. 

When the king of Aram suspected a mole in the ranks was informing the king of Israel about his military strategy, he discovered it was the prophet Elisha who was guiding the Israelites (2 Kings 6). He decided to go after Elisha with a huge army of chariots and horses. When Elisha’s young servant saw the army surrounding them, he became frightened. “‘Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire” (verses 16-17, NLT).

He must have been surprised and also greatly relieved to see the army of God ready to defend them. We also have a heavenly army on our side which vastly outnumbers those against us. Perhaps we should make Elisha’s prayer our prayer – O Lord, open our eyes and let us see! Let us see your presence in and around us; let us see how you are working tirelessly on our behalf; let us see your majesty, glory, strength and beauty!

Heightened Awareness

We don’t think about our brains much, but maybe we should – they are remarkable organs, and not just organs, but miracles of creation. When you consider what our minds are capable of, I daresay it’s mind boggling. I’ve been pondering how we can be aware of several things at once, like time, the weather, our hunger or fatigue, others in the vicinity, the temperature of the room, what we should be doing now or have to do later. Mothers are (almost) always aware of the whereabouts of their babies and all of us are aware of our own bodies. 

Why then, is it so difficult to have a continual awareness of God? We think about him first thing in the morning, or before we go to sleep, or maybe give him some thought at other times of the day as we have time and opportunity. But are we continually aware of Christ in us? In an effort to follow Paul’s exhortations to pray unceasingly, be cheerful at all times and always be thankful, it’s good to focus on being aware of God more than just a few times a day – even at all times, at every moment. 

In a beautifully written and moving book by Sue Monk Kidd, called God’s Joyful Surprise, the author quotes Thomas Kelly, who defined prayer “as living concurrently in the level of the world and in the level of God’s presence.” Kidd says, “when Douglas Steere, a friend of Kelly’s, was asked whether it was possible to carry out his friend’s call to live in the awareness both of the world and of God’s presence, he wrote: An old Indian saint gives the identical counsel: ‘Do all your work then, but keep your mind on God….The tortoise swims about in the waters of the lake, but her mind is fixed to where her eggs are laid on the bank. So, do all the work of the world, but keep your mind on God.’”

Awareness of God – who he is, how he is working in ourselves and others, the whispers of the Holy Spirit as we go through our days – is a profound way to stay connected. It’s vital to our inner lives and even for our spiritual growth and transformation. It takes time and effort of course, but training ourselves to always be aware of him will be the most fruitful endeavor of our lives.

(Thanks to my friend Connie Whitmire for recommending this book.)

Sociable, Not Social

I once had the opportunity to take a river tour along a short stretch of the Colorado River. A recorded voice gave highlights of the history and geography of the area as well as stories about the nearby town. Two small children looked out the windows while their parents buried their noses in their cell phones. 

I felt sorry for them – what a missed chance to talk with each other, admire the beautiful scenery along the river and spend time together as a family. When did our mobile phones become more important than the people we love? We can’t really blame technology and we certainly can’t stop its progress, but it seems we do need to take steps to keep it from taking over our lives. 

It used to be easy to get away from electronic intrusions, but now it takes a concerted and purposeful effort to shut out the distractions. It’s not easy. One company made a series of advertisements showing what happens to a family when the Internet goes out. After seven minutes, the daughter plays piano (badly) while the others cringe. After ten minutes they find a restaurant in the phone book but there’s no review. The dad says he can’t eat there if he doesn’t know what people think. Other ads show them going crazy, trying desperately to get online, even spying on the neighbor’s computers. 

Some of us remember when the Internet didn’t exist. What did we do? How did we entertain ourselves? How did we survive? Well, we read books and newspapers, played board games and took walks. We looked at the sunsets and the stars. We even talked to each other! The art of conversation seems to be going the way of churning butter – no one does it anymore and some don’t even know how. 

Perhaps we need to reconsider our relationship with our devices and return to being sociable rather than just social. God, who created us for relationship with himself and others, meant for those relationships to be face-to-face, not face-to-screen. Let’s remind ourselves and our children to use technology, not let it use us. Let’s all work on having more face-to-face, eye-to-eye time and put the gadgets in their place – useful tools when we need them, but out of sight when a real, live human being might need us more.