Inattention is one of those fuzzy words that can mean just about anything from “What were you thinking?” to “Were you thinking at all?” We had a couple of house fires in our community this last week (very rare for us) that may have been caused by momentary inattention. I was thinking about that as I drove downtown. In fact, I was thinking about it so much that I nearly drove through a red light and stopped at a green one. Inattention.
It seems to be something that happens to us when we are preoccupied by something that removes us from a full awareness of what is around us, what we are physically doing, and what the consequences of our doing it might be. Perhaps you seldom, or even never, experience that sort of inattentive moment, but I think most people do.
Teen agers seem to be more prone to an abundance of those moments that others, but we have learned to blame that on their underdeveloped brains. Those of us of a more mature age can probably claim that our brains have need of a rest from a life of clear, sharp attentiveness. That leaves those in the middle whom we can accuse of laziness, lack of discipline, selfishness and the like as suits our disposition and prejudices.
I wonder what God thinks about that when he observes the inattentive way we treat our environment and each other. What are they thinking? Are they thinking at all? Time and again we pray to God for the redress of issues that we ourselves have caused, with no apparent awareness of our personal culpability or any serious intention to behave differently. Preoccupied with ourselves, our wants and needs and our stiff necked, closed minded world views, we are simply inattentive most of the time. We are particularly inattentive to what God has to say about that.
I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than focusing on church dogma, environmental issues, tax policies, consumerism, abortion, homosexuality, immigration and the rest, it would be more productive to focus on a different list. Paul has a good one to start with that some of us will hear this Sunday. What would happen if we who say that we follow Christ actually put away anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive language? What if we just limited it to that and didn’t worry about all the other do and don’t lists in scripture? I wonder how that would change us, everyone around us, and maybe even some of those big public policy issues? Ha! What am I thinking? What would happen to my status as a curmudgeon?