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Photo by Mike McCune

By Liz Chang

In my work with clients who have a history of abusing substances, it is a common theme for drugs to be a tool for coping with difficult emotions and challenging situations in life. But drugs aren’t the only distraction available. There’s Netflix, podcasts, books, pets, shopping, social media, parties, chores, errands, and the list goes on. Distractions are plentiful and not inherently bad. But they often give us the easy way out from facing difficult emotions and challenging situations. They can be cause for us to miss out on opportunities to reflect, grow, problem solve, and engage with the Spirit of God.

When I think about the many stories of Jesus walking through a crowd or walking in a crowd, I realize that Jesus had his options for distraction too. While he didn’t have all the technology, he had plenty of social situations to dilute his attention and presence. But he paid attention. He took notice. He heard. He saw. He responded to individuals who could have been overlooked in the crowds.

The list of distraction options are my crowd. When I am walking in my crowd in day-to-day life, sometimes I use that as a gut reaction to avoid grief, disappointment, stress, anxiety, and other unpleasant emotions. My crowd can help me minimize my experience of those emotions that seem unbearable in the moment. But those can be missed opportunities for experiencing the ease of God’s yoke. When the Spirit of God is what empowers me, can I learn to pay attention in the crowd and be strengthened to take notice and respond?

Jesus modeled this for us during his ministry on earth. He didn’t react to questions from Pharisees and Sadducees with avoidance, defensiveness or fear. He didn’t allow the crowds to distract him from taking notice of those who reached out to him. He responded with thoughtfulness and compassion.

Presence requires willingness to move beyond quick reactions into a mindset of thoughtful and compassionate response. This takes practice. And catching those opportunities builds on our sanctification and foundations of faith and relationship with the living God.

What’s in your crowd?
Who or what are the things in your life that are reaching out for your response?
Can we take the time to notice and respond to what God is doing in our lives?

Liz Chang resides in New York City and is a family therapist at an intensive outpatient treatment center for drug addiction. She is a License Marriage and Family Therapist and graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is an aspiring photographer and is a cat mom to Instagram cat @bennyslyf. She and her husband enjoy going for walks and exploring new neighborhoods, parks, and restaurants.

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The date of Easter changes from year to year, but since my first Sunday as a pastor was Easter Sunday, that’s become my marker. Another Easter, another year of ministry.

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