Seeing but Not Seeing
Have you ever had the experience of driving on the highway, and over a period of several seconds, your mind wanders away from the actual traffic on the road? Instead, your mind turns its “attention” to the cares and concerns of the day in front of you.
Social scientists speak of two different forms of attention: primary and secondary attention. Primary attention includes those matters more immediately at the front of your consciousness. Secondary attention pertains to those matters which your mind is able to hold onto, but in a less immediate fashion. Driving down the road, you find your primary attention to be matters of your schedule, but you still are able to maintain secondary attention on the road.
In Matthew 13, Jesus speaks of the parables as a means by which matters that seem of secondary importance for life ought to be attended to as matters of immediate concern. For example, he uses the classic language of the Old Testament that there are some who have eyes but do not see and ears but do not hear. The matters of eternal significance “sit lightly” on the hearts and minds of his hearers. They are not paying attention to these matters with sufficient concern.
As the Advent season comes upon us, it is far too easy for all of us to have eyes but not see the eternal significance of Jesus’ intrusion into human history. All too common is for us to take our eyes off these matters and place our heart’s attention on the consumer rhythms of the season—from office parties, to Christmas tree decorations, to getting presents ready for the children. But by God’s grace, every once in a while God grabs our “primary attention” in surprising ways and tells us, “PAY ATTENTION TO JESUS.”
Our prayer for you during this season is that your eyes might actually see Jesus, in all of his unexpected glory and humility, as the very Son of God in whose life we find life. May God grab your attention this year.
Richard Lints, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs; Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Theology