The Day God Reminded Me to Pay Attention

pay attention

A version of this post originally appeared on traciecollier.com, published with permission.

I was in the car waiting for my son to finish up at work when I noticed a woman get out of her car and walk over to a nearby restaurant. She didn’t go in, but waited right outside the door.

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I didn’t think anything of it and easily went back to my phone to mindlessly scroll the minutes away.

I sensed God whispering in my ear.

Look again. Pay attention.

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When I looked up, I noticed she looked nervous, almost jittery. She still wasn’t going into the restaurant.

You should pray for her. 

So, here’s the thing. I didn’t really want to. I wanted to go back to whatever had changed on Twitter in the last minute. I wanted to disengage my brain and get lost in the perfection that is Instagram. So, basically, I wanted to be selfish.

Ashamed of my reaction, I put my phone down and asked God to help her…to calm her down…to see her through whatever was bothering her.

Just then, a man walked out with an adorable little girl, maybe two years old. The woman and the tiny girl were SO HAPPY to see each other! The girl was quickly scooped up and smothered with kisses. “Aww, sweet,” I thought.

No one moved away from that spot, but stood there talking for a little while. The woman was just beaming! I bet the little girl was her daughter.

Feeling like some sort of stalker watching a private moment, I went back to my phone. A few minutes later, I looked back up just in time to see the woman gave the little girl one more kiss and hand her back to the man. As he took the little girl back into the restaurant, the woman, sobbing, turned away and headed back to her car. The look of pain on her face was absolutely excruciating. It was like watching someone’s heart break right in front of my eyes. Before I could even get my seatbelt off to go talk to her, she was gone.

I can never know their story for sure, but I had most likely just witnessed some form of supervised visitation. The kind where you get to see your child for a few minutes and not outside the presence of the other parent.

I sat for a while thinking about what I had just seen. I prayed for her again. So much pain, God. So much pain.

I was reminded of two things:

  1. There’s more heartache out there than I can possibly imagine. Private pain and unfathomable loss.
  2. Some of it is happening right in front of me.

I think it “feels” like I’m paying attention when I’m scanning the latest stories and headlines from my 6-inch phone screen. But how often do I actually engage with those stories?

If I were to just look up a little more often, there’s no telling what I would notice. There’s no telling who I could be reaching out to here, in real life and in real time. While it IS important to stay current and aware with issues that are more national or global, what a shame it would be to ignore people who are living out their struggles right in front of me.

God puts people in my path every day who need him. They need the grace and mercy I’ve so undeservedly received.

God, help me to pay attention.


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Tracie Collier
Tracie is a truth-seeking book-a-holic who loves looking for evidence of God's mercy and grace in the midst of everyday life. Married to the kindest man on the planet and mother to two teenage boys, Tracie makes her home in Huntsville, Alabama. You can follow her on her blog, shadesofmercyandgrace.com, and on Instagram.