“Attention, Israel! God, our God! God the one and only! Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!” (Deut 6:4-5)
This is Peterson’s rendering of the Shema, the classic line in Deuteronomy 6 which begins “Hear O Israel…” Jesus quotes it to great effect, when asked about what God requires of us. When Jesus began His answer with the Shema prayer, He acknowledged the Lord God as the most important thing deserving attention, (Mark 12:28-30) and went on to insist that total radical commitment to God is the most important of all the commandments. It is no surprise that the scribe replied this way:
“You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)
Shema is the Hebrew word for “Hear.” The trouble is that the voice can get crowded out amidst a surge of conflicting voices.
In my online dictionary, “Attention Deficit Disorder” is defined as: “Any of a range of behavioural disorders occurring primarily in children, including such symptoms as poor concentration, hyperactivity, and learning difficulties…”
Now I have intimate knowledge of what that looks like and the issues involved in raising ADD children (and, ahem, in living as an adult too).
But this morning, that word “attention” grabbed my ….attention. Sometimes it feels that just to keep everything going, plate-spinner that I am, I am forced into a hyperactive lifestyle that drains me of the ability of sustained worship and devotion that this verse seems to speak about. I can’t concentrate. I have difficulty learning about God…
C.S.Lewis said, “We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”
So I look to the words of the Shema as a wonderful expression that the Lord is the one true God. I acknowledge His lordship, and my response remains to “hear” Him, to love Him with all my heart, soul, and might, and love my neighbor as myself (apart from the one upstairs, perhaps?).
As I state this truth I acknowledge my inadequacy. In fact, as soon as it becomes a summons to real practical living (i.e. as relating to Her in the Flat Upstairs) then my spiritual ADD kicks in.
I need more. Without Jesus this becomes a summons to duty which we have to take on the chin and do the best we can. But in the light of the resurrection, and “Christ in me”, and “by His Spirit” everything changes for ever. Here’s Peterson explaining the point:
“It is not easy to convey a sense of wonder, let alone resurrection wonder, to another. It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions. Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.”
“Being there” and “Sense of engagement” is the polar opposite of my frenzied scurrying. Today, Lord, I want to give you my full, undivided, attention. Amen