The Rev. Michael Pestel, Associate Pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Largo, FL is the author of this week’s article.
Have you ever lived in a town that only had two traffic lights? I spent three years living in Wilmore, Kentucky and I probably never waited for more than 30 seconds to get through a light. Then I moved to Pinellas County last summer. I can appreciate that living in a tropical paradise like Clearwater comes with a price, like dealing with heavy traffic. However, I find myself in a particularly maddening situation almost daily. I pull up behind four other cars in a left turn lane and patiently waited until we get the arrow. The arrow turns green and, inevitably, one of the four cars will not be paying attention and fail to move on time. I yell, “Look up!” Whereas ten of us could have gone, only four ending up making it, arghhh!
Some people say, “Ignorance is bliss.” Maybe that’s true for the ignorant person, but not for everyone else around that person. There are few lifestyles more selfish than the lifestyle of ignorance. While my opening example focused on the driving of others, I could fill an entire book with examples of my own lack of awareness in given situations. The truth is that the message of our culture is so saturated with self-satisfaction that it is a small miracle when someone thinks outside of one’s self.
Through reading scripture, knowing history, and knowing ourselves, a pretty strong case can be made that the human tendency is “me first.” Someone famously defined sin as “love turned inward.” When we consider that sin is what causes the split between people and God, it is no wonder that God has no room in his existence for sin. The God we read about in the Bible is one who loves others passionately and sacrificially. God’s posture with people is one of constant awareness, from the greatest of things to the smallest of details.
The Christian faith claims that you and I are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). I wonder if part of what it means to be made in God’s image means living in a constant state of awareness. Think about the time Jesus said that the most important thing to do in life is to love God and love other people (Luke 10:27). How can I love if I am unaware? What do I know about God? What pleases or displeases God? Am I aware of the ways God has loved me? The same questions apply to our neighbors. Is my sense of awareness sharp enough around others that I can figure out how to love them in the best way? Most times it doesn’t take rocket science. If I see someone hungry, I feed that person. If someone is naked, I clothe that person. If someone is crying, I put an arm around that person.
On the very first Easter two guys were making their way back home from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35). These followers of Jesus were devastated at witnessing his death and subsequently hearing that someone had stolen his body from the grave. As they told this story to a stranger they met on the road their sense of awareness tried to tell them something. But they ignored it. Later that night they discovered they had been walking with someone who was far from a stranger; it had been the risen Jesus! Walking through life without the awareness of the presence of Jesus is a pretty ugly thing. Things look bleak, heads hang low, and we try and tell God how it’s going to be. But awareness of Jesus, now that’s a beautiful thing. Hearts get to burning, legs get to running and mouths get to talking, shouting the good news that “The Lord has risen indeed!” Are you aware?