“You owe $3.40 in overdue book fines at the library.” I sat staring at the e-mail. It was impossible. It was a mistake. I always return my library books on time, and I never have fines for overdue books – never. Let me tell you that the daily fine on a library book is not very much. So to get to over $3.00, I must have kept these books out way past the due date. As I read and re-read the e-mail, I began to feel kind of stupid. I felt like this was a little detail that should not have been overlooked. How did I manage to miss the previous notes announcing the due date for the books? Do I just have too many things going on? Am I starting to lose my ability to concentrate? Am I missing other details that may carry a fine with them? What is going on here?
While still pondering these questions last Sunday morning, I heard a message from Pastor Mike that shed some light on the subject. Pastor was talking about being present. He gave examples of how we are not always present in our world – to God, ourselves, or one another. The example he gave that stuck with me was when we are talking to someone face-to-face and the cell phone rings. How often have I turned from my conversation partner to answer that call? How often have I interrupted a dialogue and rudely turned my attention to the little blinking, beeping thing I have assigned to the status of life-sustainer?
I get that this might be a stretch for some folks, but go with me on this one. I started thinking about all the time I spend spinning around in my life with thoughts fighting for attention, interruptions of processes I have started, and ignoring the things and/or people that really matter. Okay, okay maybe the library fine is not such a big deal. But the principle and resulting questions remain the same. Why am I not fully present in my world? Why am I so fragmented? More importantly, how can I fix this?
I decided to start by truly examining my own personal focus and meditation time in the mornings. YIKES. My observation was that when I got into a state of worship, seeking, and thanksgiving, my mental cell phone rang. I habitually informed the Lord, “Sorry. I really have to take this. I’ll be right back. You don’t mind do you?” Rarely did I wait for a response. I just quickly turned my attention to the intrusive thought before the Lord could object.
Finally, it dawned on me that this simple action had begun to set the course for my day. I was just running from one thing to another, without really focusing on anything. I was missing important information. I was missing important appointments. I was missing God’s blessings around me. I was missing my life.
So I prayed to be forgiven for my self-absorption and my failure to focus enough to realize what is important in my life. I asked God to bring me into a state of consciousness that honored Him, me, and others. Then I, of course, went into my local library (with a hangdog look), and admitted I had been remiss. The sweet young lady behind the counter said, “No big deal. We are all square now. Fine is paid. Don’t give it another thought. Go have a good day.”
It should come as no surprise that this is not only what happened at my library, it is what happened with God. He let me know that we are all square now. I was not to give it another thought, and was to go live my life – differently. Thankfully, unlike the library, there was no fine.
Thank you, Pastor Mike, for using a simple gismo to demonstrate how easy it is to sometimes live life in a fragmented and unhealthy state. Your message gave me cause to pause, reflect, and respond. As a result of this little jolt, Pastor Mike’s message, and a new awareness, I am now attempting to keep my attention to God, me, others, and my world from falling into the status of “overdue.”