Things Lifeguarding Taught Me Part 1: Attention

This past summer I was given the surprising blessing of becoming a lifeguard. During my months sitting poolside, I learned a lot about life, faith, people, myself, and especially our Heavenly Father. A word that contains a little of all of the aforementioned topics is this: attention. And I don’t just mean ‘as a lifeguard I have to pay attention’ … this is something deeper.

And there is one day in particular that I am certain I will never forget.

I sat perched at the side of the pool on the lifeguard chair, nothing out of the ordinary happening. I scanned left and right, nothing out of the ordinary happening. There was simply nothing out of the ordinary happening. It was an average day at the pool, average games being played, average laughter and splashing, average middle school boys trying to show off … and then something remarkable happened.

“Dad!” I heard a small voice yell.
And again, “Dad!”
“Dad watch me!”
No response back.
I scan the water for the little boys father.
He was the son of a volunteer that week, about six years old.
“Dad! Hey Dad!”
“Dad watch my jump!”

This went on for a couple minutes, with the occasional “wait a second” pointer finger wave from his father who was talking to another volunteer. His son waited impatiently at the edge of the water. Eventually, the man turned to face his son and his little boy joyfully jumped into the water and swam to his arms. Once he reached his father, he shouted “Dad! Did you see me!? Are you proud!?”

Did you see me?
Are you proud?

Those two pieces kept replaying through my head for the rest of my shift, that day, and into the night. It got me thinking about my life (and people in general). How many times have I desperately sought attention? The answer is simple: quite frequently. It’s not wrong to want to be paid attention to, but the question comes down to whose attention are you seeking. Are you crying out to your Heavenly Father to watch you, or the things of this world? We want acceptance. We strive to be paid attention to – loved. I sat in the cabin after everyone else had fallen asleep thinking about how many times I had cried out to the world, to the desires of the flesh and said “watch me!” I also thought about the times I had cried out to God saying “watch me!” with all of my might. Which occurred more? How many times each?

But then I realized something: I don’t have to.

I’m sorry. What?

That’s right; with God, I don’t have to cry out, but I can choose to because I am His child. With the world, I have to beg in order to gain the attention, and even when I act out and yell to be watched, it’s all in vain and it is temporary. With the world, I’m fighting against countless others also seeking attention at the same time. With the world, I have to repeatedly shout “watch me! look at me! see me!” for temporary satisfaction; but with my Heavenly Father it is the opposite. He sits and shouts “show me! let me see what you can do!” He is focused. He is attentive. He delights in us. He wants to pay attention to us – and He does. He’s always there, and we are the ones who turn away.

Those questions kept replaying in my mind.

Did you see me?
Are you proud?

And to both, God spoke peace into my heart with a confident “Yes.”

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