(Tuesday, September 5)

Then He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Mk 4:24-25)

Many of us have probably read or heard the above-quoted verses lots of times, and have wondered: Whoever has or does not have what? The key to answering this question is in the preceding verse: “Take heed what you hear… and to you who hear, more will be given.” We either “have” an attentiveness, a taking heed of, what we “hear,” both directly of the word of God, and of what God is telling us through others, – or we don’t really listen, and choose instead to engage our own delusions, like the negative or positive “what ifs,” ranging from self-centered fears, resentments and expectations to wishful thinking. If we exercise true obedience (from the Latin “ob” + “audire,” meaning “to listen up against,” or “to listen in”) to God’s will and presence in our lives, as manifested through the people, places, and things He gives us, rather than wishing for or imagining a different reality, we experience an ever-increasing kind of spiritual awakening, to the goodness of God to us. This brings us joy, and “more.”

It does take a bit of work, every day, to be attentive and alert in this way. It helps to journal just a bit, noting briefly the pluses and minuses of the past day; what we are grateful to God for, how we did well or what went well, with God’s help, and how we did not do well, along with how we could do or be better. This, along with a bit of healthy reading and prayer, are some things that can help us engage in the kind of self-care that keeps us from wasting time on loneliness, resentments, fears, and other rabbit-holes we might tend to go down, when we listen to or focus on the bad guys in our own heads. If we choose this self-abusive path, and “do not have” a God-centered focus, then our resulting self-isolation will “take away” any joy even from that and those we do have, because we won’t notice these God-given blessings.

If it seems too hard, at this point in our lives, to “take heed” and re-focus in this way, let’s just have the willingness to begin, asking our loving God to nudge us further, as He is more than willing and able to do. Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Your grace!