It was one of my “Bad Dad” moments. My daughter Amy was telling me about her day, with all the excruciating detail that matters to a 7-year-old girl (but much less to her tired father). She could tell I was distracted (I guess reading the newspaper gave it away) and said “Daddy, listen to me!” Not impressed by my lame assurance that she had my full attention, Amy grabbed my cheeks in both of her cute little hands, turned my face toward hers, and sternly admonished me: “No, Daddy, listen with your eyes!”
My little girl had already learned an important lesson – if she didn’t have my face, she didn’t have my focus.
I thought of that moment when I read Jeremiah 32 this last week. As the Babylonian army is surrounding Jerusalem, God and the prophet have a conversation about the failures of the Israelites that led to this tragedy. God summarizes the problem in verse 33: “And they have turned their back to me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction.”
Seventy years later, another prophet took the lesson to heart. Sitting in Babylon, Daniel read Jeremiah’s prophecy, no doubt including the verse quoted above, and succeeded where his countrymen had failed. After reading the prophecy about the length of the exile, he wrote this: “I gave my attention to the Lord God, to seek Him” (Dan. 9:3) The phrase “gave my attention” literally means “set my face.”
Daniel learned from Israel’s mistakes. God had his face, and God had his focus.
My spiritual life has benefited powerfully these last few months from a decision to regularly give my attention to the Lord God, to seek Him, to go for walks with Him, to come to Him with no agenda other than that of a child who wants to spend time with his Father. I’m heading out on a Sabbath hike this afternoon, and I can’t wait!
Sabbath is a good way to give God our face and our focus, but it isn’t the only one. What is yours? Have you discovered the joy of significant, uninterrupted time with Him, when as the hymn says, you can “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face?” It won’t come naturally, because the distractions are many. You can’t coast your way to these moments – you have to pursue them tenaciously. But they are worth pursuing. They really, REALLY are!
We can learn a lesson from a flower. Sunflowers are designed to turn from east to west in order to keep their faces fully exposed to the sun as it crosses the sky. This week I learned that there is a word for that – sunflowers are heliotropic, “helios” being the Greek word for “sun.” They turn to face the source of light, which they depend on for their life.
Can I invent a new word? I want to be Christotropic. I want to set my face toward Him, giving Him my full attention, and seeking Him. I want my life to be oriented toward Him, every moment of every day.
I want Christ to have my face and my focus, and I don’t want Him to have to grab my cheeks to make it happen.