Look, Something Shiny
I've served with some leaders in the past who have admitted to having a pretty severe case of ADD. We toss around the joke of not being able to avoid having a whole conversation derailed by a shiny object going by, and to some extent it's true.
For me personally, it highlights one of the deepest and most destructive battles for our souls.
The battle with distraction.
Distraction dislodges our brains from God, turns our hearts from healthy response to God, and pulls our hands back from the beautiful work of the Kingdom of God. It brings us to a place where we flit and float from one thing to another, until the picture is completely flipped upside down and we start searching for distractions. My best test for this is simple: have I recently checked my phone with no reason to do so other than to do it rather than doing something else?
A convoluted statement but a harsh reality to be sure. I go looking for distraction because it is such an awaited and welcomed friend. The question then becomes, in an increasingly distracted culture, how do we train ourselves to be less distracted in our souls and ruthlessly focused on God? Here are a few thoughts.
1. We need better memories. Our theology of grace, forgiveness, creation, prayer and hope (among other things) are grown and cultivated by having a better grasp on what God has done in the past for us. If we face distractions by turning our minds toward what God has done in the past - the mighty acts in our own story or in the story of Scripture - we'll begin to see our brains focus back on that which truly deserves our attention.
2. We need to work on the space on our hard drive. We only have so much brain power, honestly, and only so much storage space on those grey tablets between our ears. The greatest tool we have to for combating thoughts and meditations that are bent on turning our head away from the good and beautiful is to put Scripture in place in our minds to the exclusion of things that could distract us. There's no brownie points in heaven, but if we desire that abiding and robust connection to God in the dirt of ordinary life then we desperately need the foundation to be laid well and with no gaps in the cinderblocks. Memorizing Scripture gives us a place to shove aside distractions and focus on words of hope and life.
3. We must face ourselves, and our technology, head on. This weekend I was - rightly so - called to account by my family on how much I look at my phone in a given day. Now that we have the powerful information channels in our pocket, there isn't anything that we can't know or discover. This has saved us many times in finding directions, recovering phone numbers, working on the go, etc. However, we've crafted a life in which these brilliant tools are not aids but they are the center point. Turning off distractions, or at least putting physical distance between them and ourselves, is key to recovering our ability to focus on that which is most important. It will also lead us to answer this question: Am I searching for distractions today? If so, why?
This seems overhwhelming. I know because it seems that way to me most days, including today. However, we must remember:
Working through distraction is honestly a point of God's grace, and grace leads us to agree with Julian of Norwich: "But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."
May the God of laser focus attend, gracefully and poetically, to us and our distractions today. Peace.