I taught an entire 10th grade Bible class with my zipper down. One night I said, “Good night,” to my wife when she still had fresh tears in her eyes from our discussion. I met with a friend who I thought might be suicidal and told them to, “call me if you need anything.” If you are anything like me, you will agree that we could use growth in the area of awareness.
Awareness is the key that unlocks many relational doors. It goes far beyond a casual glance or simply noticing, and involves almost a mystical combination of senses. Awareness combines perceiving and not just seeing with your eyes; listening and not just hearing with your ears; and wisely processing in your soul the state of another. In this place, relationships blossom and we see the people around us in a whole new light. If we miss the open door or awareness, we will fail to care for, counsel, communicate with and connect to those around us according to God’s design.
In the heat of the midday sun, Jesus wearily leaned against the stones of Jacob’s water well. Jesus demonstrated that He was far more concerned with a foreigners’ thirst than His own (John 4). His awareness of a Samaritan woman opened the door for Him to speak truth, freedom, and soul satisfaction into the life of someone thirsty for the living God of the universe. The disciples probably passed this hungry God-seeker twice, as they went to and from town with their supplies. Jesus seized the moment of awareness, while he disciples seemed to have missed their appointment to impact a life.
Jesus, aware of His disciples needs, spoke words that simultaneously encourage and haunt me, “Wake up and look around!” (John 4:35). As I ponder this stinging challenge, as I reflect upon Jesus’ radically different relational operating system, a question floods my mind:
Q: How can I become more aware? (How can I emulate Jesus’ awareness of those around Him?)
These steps have helped me immensely on my journey of becoming more aware…
1. Ask MORE questions. Spend an hour with a child and you’ll see this bright, beautiful, colorfully complex world through a different lens. Children ask the questions that lead to greater awareness. More questions create more options–more options lead to greater awareness. Jesus saw the disciples need to grow in this area. He challenged them to look with new eyes for daily opportunities to move people towards the kingdom!
2. Ask the right questions of YOURSELF. If we are going to have Jesus’ awareness, we need to answer the following questions correctly:
Q: Am I willing to engage the disengaged? Usually we leave loners and outcasts alone. Jesus leaned into this woman’s hiddenness in order to free her from it!
Q: Am I willing to give this person what they NEED versus what they WANT? This woman wanted a short cut. Jesus offered her life on a different plane.
Q: Am I willing to trust God with my reputation as well as my salvation? Jesus didn’t care about what people might say about this verbal engagement–He just loved her towards the Kingdom!
Q: Am I willing to move others into God’s story versus my story? We are trying to move every person we meet into a story–either God’s or our own. We are either pointing people to the Father or moving people’s attention towards furthering our own goals and desires. Jesus’ goal was to help every person that He encountered to move towards God’s story! (See CS Lewis for more.)
Q: Am I willing to focus on spiritual things versus just the physical? If our entire focus is the physical world, we will miss what is most important in this life–the spiritual life! Physical needs can’t be ignored, but they cannot become our main focus. ”Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” Philippians 3:19.
Q: Am I willing to forgo what I need? Jesus asked for water, had a life transforming conversation with this woman, and she skipped towards the village having tasted her first sip of living water. Jesus didn’t yell at her, “Hey! Where is water I asked for?” He was willing to let go of His needs to serve a greater, more important need.
3. Ask the RIGHT questions of those around us: We can lead with simple questions such as Jesus’, “May I have some water,” question, but at some point, if we truly love those around us, we will need to ask questions they might not like hearing. Jesus asked this woman questions that intrigued, perplexed, challenged, and convicted her. These questions changed her life.
Remember that God is aware of YOU. The only time we can be truly aware of others, their thoughts, feelings, needs and desires is when we glance at our own, and then turn our gaze back to others. This changes the orientation of conversation and relationship and can only be accomplished when we experience the amazing belovedness of having our names written on the palm of God’s hand (Isaiah 49:16).
If you have accepted the radical love and forgiveness of God that has come through His Son, Jesus, God is not only aware of you–He is preoccupied with you!
Read also Craig’s post on 3 Steps to Authentic Relationships