Who ever thought “noticing” was an art? I did not, until I started researching the subject for an upcoming women’s event at church. I was surprised by the number of books and articles written about the importance of noticing. There is even a Harvard summer school class on the “Art of Noticing”. This post will consider noticing as it relates to welcoming the invisible people God has placed in our lives.
Who, outside family and close friends, do you see on regular basis…the sales clerk, barista, neighbor down the street, or co-worker? Do you know their names or remember much about them? Often, I do not. God in His sovereignty, has put these invisble people in my life…in your life for a reason. He has given us as a mission field in our own neighborhood and community.
Practicing the Art of Noticing
1. Really see the people around you. Frequently, I view the receptionist, waitress or clerk as “necessary” to get my real work done, without really seeing them. Noticing means I pay attention to learn their name and use it during our exchange and as I have opportunity, observe them to learn what is happening in their lives.
2. Pray discreetly for God’s grace and mercy in their lives. Prayers based on what we have observed, without asking if they have a request. In the book, The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, John Crilly calls this “praying behind people’s backs”. I love the idea of secretly praying for a person. Once I start praying for someone I no longer see him or her as an annoying neighbor or only a “necessary” person, but a real person with needs, cares and concerns just like me.
3. Gently engage and genuinely listen to them. This is an area with which I really struggle. Often, I am in a rush to accomplish the next thing on my to-do list. Stopping to look at the clerk, ask how her day is going, and listen to her answer requires time, time I do not always want to give. I have been convicted of the importance of taking this time, because my goal should not be checking off my list, but loving God by caring for the people He has placed before me today.
Her name is Tammy. We discuss family joys (grandchildren) and struggles (losing a parent), vacation fun and everyday stuff, every 6 to 8 weeks when I go in for a haircut. Yes, she is my beautician. In past besides polite chit chat, I don’t think I knew much about “the lady who cuts my hair”. But this time I have chosen to notice, pray and listen to her and let God guide our relationship.
If we are to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us (Romans 15:7), we must take the time to notice the people God has placed in our lives. See them as people, not just as the family in the house next door or that service gal or guy. Pray for them, as specifically as possible, not just, bless our neighbors. Listen…listen…listen…nothing says, “I notice you” as stopping and listening.
Welcoming starts with the simple act of noticing and can lead to a change in eternity, as we let God use us, just as He had planned.