My parents knew I needed glasses because I complained that I could not read the daily homework assignments in fourth grade. I squinted often, come to think of it. When they took me to the eye doctor, he confirmed what they suspected: I needed glasses. Badly. Once I slipped on my first pair, I could not believe the high-definition that existed in the world around me. What had been obscure was now crystal clear.
Life is not so dissimilar. It is easy to lose focus, easy for the world to become blurry in my fast-paced crazy busyness as I jump from one task to another. When life moves at the speed of a high-speed train, the landscape around me becomes obscured, and I forget where I’m going and why I am here. To-do lists rule my daily agenda, and tasks can loom larger than people. My mission too easily shifts to “put out another [relational or logistical] fire” in a life of full-time ministry – which is not unique to me, since all of our labor as Christians is ministry regardless of profession. The contours of my life specifically exacerbate this tendency: part-time counselor, full-time mom to 4-year-old twins, wife to a full-time pastor, daughter-in-law to aging parents recently moved to town. Crises arise with some frequency and with varied degrees of perceived urgency. It is hard to decide what should be shifted to accommodate the need of the week (or day or hour).
What I need is focus. I need my world to stop racing around me in a blurry whirl and to be able to focus on the one thing that is needed, like Mary as she sat at Jesus’ feet. In this moment, what do I need? Who is before me? How can I ask God and others for help to lift heavy burdens? Where is the joy that I might miss right now if I’m focused on the stress of tomorrow or tonight or next month or next year? And how does remembering the big picture – the long-term – bring focus to the immediate so that I don’t get caught in the urgent, neglecting the important?
I need focus, and I need to focus. Focus is the word of my year for 2015. Not as poetic as last year’s light or 2013’s new. But oh so needed! I love that focus is both what I do (verb) and the object I am looking at (noun). And I sense God inviting me to to allow space [white space/margin/boundaries] to help me to focus better on what I profess to be my priorities, both in how I spend my time (what I do) and what I give my attention to (my focus). Focus implies intense gaze and intent – direction. It’s where you’re going and how you are going to get there.
I am indebted to a few great thinkers and writers who have helped me in mulling this over – Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy being the top of my list, followed by Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection and Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways, and one that brought it all into focus as viewed through the lens of parenting is Kim John Payne’s Simplicity Parenting.
Most of all, I am indebted to my Redeemer, who is patient to continually draw his distracted-by-many-things daughter back to the one thing needed: sitting at his feet, focusing on the one whose love is constant and whose gaze never leaves me (as many times as mine leaves his). These passages of Scripture are prayers for me in 2015. Join me?
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
“And a woman named Martha welcomed [Jesus] into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)