Attending

More from the book  In The Midst of Chaos

"Attending" is the sum of those acts by which we genuinely give ourselves to another by the many small acts that we do.  We watch out for, we notice another’s needs, we move to protect, we scan the horizon, so to speak, for danger to the ones we love.  Parents do this all the time for their children.

Attending to children not only changes the children, shaping their lives, it also shapes the lives of the adults who are giving their attention in care for their children.  Mothers ( and fathers too) learn virtues such as humility and patience, compassion, trust, etc. in the act of caring for their children.

I can attest to this.  I thought I was a very patient person.  Then my children’s needs and frustrations blew that notion out of the water.  I felt that I was back at square one learning patience all over again from scratch as I learned to deal with temper tantrums, homework, chores and the million little things that make life with children an adventure.  My attending to them grew parts of me that I didn’t know needed to grow. 

The author says:

Attentive love is part instinct, part effort, and part gift.  It builds on early, almost involuntary responses, as when a mother’s milk comes in on hearing a baby’s cry.  But it also involves hard work and constant discernment of what to look for, what to ward off, and how to scan the horizon for dangers. Yet for all this, understanding the other is never predictable or controllable.  One cannot command attention by sheer will power or muscular concentration.  Attention evolves out of joy, as Weil says, and its fruits come as a grace.  p.53,54

To close the chapter the author speaks of "pondering" as a way of seeking "renewal of faith within the ordinary boundaries of a day that is received as God’s gift."  Faith is what we do within our "normal time", not something we do in time set aside outside of our regular acts of living.  All the activities of living within a family "train our eyes to see God amid change and time" and are "formative of faith."

I really liked this chapter.  I guess you can tell by the two posts that I have taken to review it.  It reminds me a lot of Brother Lawrence’s way of practicing the presence of God as he went about his regular routines.

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  1. This looks really good. I’m looking forward to reading it. It looks to be just what I need right now.