I’ve noticed something about myself, lately; something I’m not particularly happy about or proud of. Part of the reason I’m not particularly happy about what I noticed is that I didn’t actually notice it myself; my wife did. She often notices things about me that I don’t notice about myself. (Probably one of the reasons that God, after looking at the first guy He ever creatd, said “It’s not good that man should be alone.” If I need anything at all in my life, God knows I need someone around me who ‘notices’ what’s going on and can bring it to my attention.
What was it that I noticed, after my wife noticed it? Well, while sitting eating our breakfast a few weeks ago, she mentioned it: my pace. The pace of my life, or perhaps I should say the ‘pace’ of my eating. She doesn’t time me, while I eat. I wouldn’t say that. She really doesn’t have to time me. We both begin a meal at the same time. Often, we even order the same thing, or when we’re eating at home, our plates look identical. But, I virtually always finish eating before she does. And a few weeks ago, she called my attention to that reality. What she said was, “Have you noticed that I’m often eating ‘alone,’ because you eat so fast that you finish before I’ve hardly had a chance to start?”
And then, I paused.
And then, I said ‘No. I had not noticed.’
And then I put my fork down, to wait.
And then, I said, “Sorry. I’ll try to pay attention, and eat slower.”
And then, I started trying to observe how fast I eat.
But a strange thing I had not observe before began to occupy my mind, every time we sat down to eat: I observed not how fast I eat … but how slowly my wife eats. I mean, she can take a bite of mashed potatoes, and then put her fork down and actually pause, before she cuts her meat for another bite. She’ll put her knife down and then say something — I don’t remember what —because I’m busy observing and waiting for her to pick her fork up to eat the meat she just cut. Then, she’ll take a slow drink of water. Then, ‘Pass the butter, please,’ as she holds a dinner croissant in her hand, caressing its warmth, anticipating its flakiness, I suppose. On and on, the meal continues. Sometimes, like when we have peas for dinner? They’ll fall off her fork because she isn’t being careful. It can take her a long time to finish her peas.
And the gravy of my life is dripping slowly over the moments of dinner, waiting for a conclusion.
How did it happen, I wonder? How did what I need to observe change? What is it about me that caused my power of observation to shift from what’s going on in my life — what’s happening on my dinner plate — to noticing how she’s doing on her plate? Why is it so easy to see how long it takes her to butter a croissant, but so hard for me to notice that my plate’s been empty for ten minutes because I scarfed down my dinner like a condemned man? And that’ not all I wonder.
I wonder how many other little things I notice about her that I never give a thought to in my own life? Why is it so easy for me to notice things in her — the precious gift God gave me to help me notice life? God took one look at me and said, “This is not good, that this guy should be alone; he’s gonna need a lot of help.” And so, he gave me my helpmeet to help me notice stuff. But the difference between who I’m observing and who I should be noticing and paying close attention to can be a very significant difference, indeed.
Jesus, of course, knew that. In His Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapter 7, he asks a question that haunts me. It’s a ‘why’ question, and those why questions in the bible often cause me to slow down, change the pace of my thinking. Sometimes, I would do well to do more than just slow down. I’d do better to just stop … and think. The ‘why’ question he asked?
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Good question. Why do I see so clearly all the little things in the lives of those around me … but have such a hard time noticing something that seems pretty simple: Keeping my eye on my own plate?