One of the most refreshing parts of speaking to the Iranian Refugees on our mission trip was noting their long attention span. I believe, they could listen to us teach them about God forever!
Our team can’t take credit for this. It was not because we were a dynamic speaking team, even though God did a great work in and through us. They did not listen well because they were void of responsibilities, worries, challenges, and distractions. No, these people were like hungry lions, which devoured their prey with vigor! They came with the intention to hear the word, eat it, digest it, and live it. They are desperate for truth. Their whole lives had been void of Jesus, and now they had Him. They knew Him. They wanted more and more of Him! They wanted to know what He thought, taught, and what He wanted them to do with their life.
After a full day of four 45-minute sermons, and four sessions of 75-minutes of worship, they wanted us to come back in the evening for a question and answer time. What we gave them during the day was not enough!
It was such an incredible gift from God to preach to a hungry people! We saw with our very own eyes the truth of Isaiah 55:11-12:
“My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it [to do]. You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap [their] hands.”
We did not hear the trees clap, nor the mountains and hills sing, but we did experience a people who received our peace. They quickly soaked up, like a dry, thirsty sponge, the truth of God; they allowed it to work in their hearts, and we departed with the fulfillment of doing what God called us to do.
During our sessions, when I was not speaking, I looked behind us at the people’s faces. I watched to see if what was said connected with them. I admit I was also looking to see if anyone was bored, sleeping, on their phones, or distracted. I didn’t see any of these. I saw people sitting on the edge of their seats, listening with great care, thinking about what they heard, and ready to ask questions.
These people teach us to be Mary.
“Jesus and his disciples came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:32-42).
Mary chose the better part. She, like the Iranian Refugees, knew what was of most value in life. Where Martha hungered for self-sufficiency, approval, and accomplishment, Mary hungered for the presence and words of Jesus.
Many of us are Martha’s (me included). How often are we listening to a sermon, and our mind wanders to our ‘to do’ list? We lose focus. Or when we are reading our Bible, and we begin thinking about the many demands on our life? We are all guilty of this from time to time. I get it!
I wonder, though, what is at the core of our wandering mind? Is it because we are bored with what we are hearing or reading? Or just maybe, we find our nourishment in the demands and details of our life?
In our wanderings, we hunger for the wrong things.
We are a well-fed people, but starving. We have spiritual resources in abundance, and yet, we lack growth. As the Dalai Lama puts it, “These are the times of fast foods but weak digestion. It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room.”
What’s the solution? How can we lengthen our attention span for the word and increase our desire to hear it, eat it, digest it, and live it?
- Fast from the distractions.
- Create space for solitude.
- Be still long enough to want to hear from God.
- Say “No” to the much in the window.
- Fill the nothingness in the room with God’s word.
It’s a matter of hungering for what really matters in life.
Mary discovered it, will you?