Hello, how are you, g’day and welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. You can also find a link to all the posts in this series on Day One. I hope you enjoy diving in!
Yesterday, a little discussion began with some not-so-great-news, that may not have been news to you at all. Briefly put, the discussion turned to the enemy of our souls, who uses deception, discouragement and division, among a myriad of other tools in the arsenal, with the intention of getting us off track on the race that we’re running. We should not be ignorant of his devices, but sometimes, we are.
Although there are other tools in the arsenal, today I just want to focus on mentioning one, because I think it is probably one of the most effective tools for pulling present day Christians away from the faith, and a solid focus on their race:
Anyone who has ever parented a small child knows what a useful tool distraction can be. The child is focused on a piece of candy in the grocery store, and in order to avoid creating a scene, you distract them with the possibility of some other reward, or even a toy or treat from your purse, so that the shopping can continue without your child screaming like a banshee.
Sometimes a baby who’s been fed, changed, had a nap, isn’t thirsty, and seems right in every other way just needs you to step outside with her and give her some good old fashioned natural distraction.
And after the football snaps, everyone knows that the quarterback who just handed off the ball to a running back will usually still keep his arms close to his chest and run for a while in the opposite direction. Why? Because he wants to distract the opponent from recognizing what is happening in the play for as long as possible.
Distraction can be a powerful tool, but it can also have serious consequences.
Distracted driving is becoming THE problem that police are concerned about on the roads — some researchers indicate that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than driving drunk. How many lives have already been lost because someone was distracted behind the wheel?
Distracted parenting is very dangerous, too. My heart still aches for the mother who lost one of her children when the older child drowned the younger in the bathtub while she was in a different room on Facebook.
While social media can perhaps have some redeeming qualities, the distraction of social media is perhaps one of the newest and most powerful tools inside the arsenal of our enemy.
Not only does seeing the highlights of other people’s lives often discourage us into believing our life is second rate, and deceive us into thinking God is withholding good from us but blessing everyone else, but it also distracts us from the real mission that we have on this earth. While we are busy comparing, or even just enjoying the highlights of our friends and acquaintances, life is happening all around us and opportunities to focus on our race and serve God with enthusiasm are diminishing.
I wonder if the enemy sometimes thinks, what I’ve thought about my children before: The worst thing I can do for them is give them just about everything they want.
Last night on the way home in the car, I listened to a news report of significant fear throughout many west african nations about vaccinations. Many people believe that vaccinations for significant childhood diseases like polio are actually western attempts at injecting people with the ebola virus, or sterilizing children so they are no longer able to reproduce.
I regularly receive emails from World Vision about water issues and hunger crises that are opportunities for the western world to step in and make such a big difference in the lives of people in poverty around the world.
Are we too distracted to give some time and thought to how we could make a difference in these situations?
While we are perhaps distracted from remembering the positive impact we can have around the world because we are very focused on our own little slice of western society (how many Facebook friends do we have in Somalia?), we are simultaneously missing the opportunity for real connection, real interaction, and important real life that is happening right in front of us all the time.
While I almost never try to carry on with a long phone call while with my children, yesterday I was on the phone with a friend when I returned from picking the Tank up from preschool. By the time we made it from my minivan into my house, two children were crying, one because she couldn’t go outside, it was lunch time, the other for something his brother did that I didn’t see.
It was as if my own distractedness somehow created a playground for the enemy to get to work.
I shared a couple of weeks ago how disappointing it is when we photograph weddings, and take pictures of people whom the bride is walking right past, going down the aisle, who are watching her, while she’s four feet away, on the four inch screen of the iPhone, instead of right there in real life. These couples paid professional photographers to capture their wedding day — why aren’t the guests able to be present and live and enjoy this moment? Because they are thinking about posting it to social media once the moment’s over. But isn’t it funny — in a way, we actually miss the moment when we try to “capture” it with our phone. We might post it for our friends, but were we really all there?
Are we so often looking down that we forget to look up?
Our unpleasant habit of constantly seeking entertainment and rejecting quiet and living with our noses near our screens is causing us to miss out on real moments with our real spouses and real children and the real friends around us, and more important, to be present enough to see the opportunities we have each day to serve and to glorify a very real God.
Jim Elliot once said, ““Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Wouldn’t we be a force to be reckoned with, if we were fully present and thinking of God’s purposes in every situation?
Here’s the thing, friends. God has a beautiful, incredible plan for your life. But there is a snake in the grass who would love to keep you too distracted to swim the race God has planned for you. It is hard to hear the voice of the Lord saying This is the way, walk in it, when there are so many other voices competing for our attention.
A turn for us will take daily, conscious, deliberate decisions. A decision to turn away from distraction and turn toward focus. A decision to turn off the TV and turn the pages of the most incredible book ever written. A decision to turn away from excessive consumption of social media and turn toward the real life opportunities for connection and interaction that we are missing because of our distraction.
We cannot love our neighbors — the people we live in community with both locally and globally, if we are too distracted for genuine interaction.
If I could ask one thing of you today, I’d ask you to look at your own patterns. Observe your own interactions with your family, your friends and co-workers. Are you sitting on the sidelines distracted? Does the thought to offer a prayer for a friend in need cross your mind? The thought to invite someone new to join you for dinner or church? The thought to speak the name of Jesus in a world that desperately needs to hear it?
With God in us, we have the potential to be fiercely faithful, gloriously taking back the ground the enemies of God would attempt to take for their own.
But storming the gates will require discipline of mind and focus, and a deliberate decision to daily swim the race God created each of us to swim.
Where are you today? Be all there. Live for God’s glory and refuse to be distracted from the deep and abiding reasons you were created. You were made for a story that is nothing short of glorious.