She saw Him in all His radiant splendor. His majestic beauty captivated her full attention. He beckoned to her to come, so she ran toward Him never once looking to the right or left. Not considering what she might be missing out on by not turning to the side. Never once slowing her pace as she received strength from His beauty and grace. Never once faltering. Never once quitting. Only focused. Only running.
That is what I wished my story was. I wished I could say for myself that I keep my eye on the prize. That I never falter. That I run to win – like Paul challenged us to do. I try, but some days I wake up and seem to discover I am in a mud puddle. Not running anywhere, but just splashing around. On a day like today, I want to run again, but it might be more realistic to describe myself as slowly walking. I may compromise my speed, but I want to be categorically unwilling to compromise my focus. Which makes me wonder, “If I really was focused entirely on Him, wouldn’t I actually be running no matter how I was feeling?” It seems like being focused on God would be the definition of running the race to win.
I have been thinking a lot about focus in the last few weeks. I don’t remember what prompted it, but it started off with me wondering if we could ever be in a better spiritual position than being 100% focused on Him. Like as in a two-day-old follower of Jesus who is attempting to be 100% focused on God seems to be better off than a two-decade-old follower of Jesus who has settled for being 50% focused on God. I know, I know, no real way to measure that and spiritual growth is far from linear. Not my role to judge anyone’s growth – probably not even my own. But the whole thought did make me think about my own journey.
I thought about when I was a new Christian. (I hope I can explain this well.) I have come to realize back then I was 100% focused on God as best I knew, but my actual picture of God was really blurry. I was looking at Him with all my might, but there were a lot of life experiences and idols in my line of vision. They really blurred my actual view of Him. I didn’t know Him very well, and I couldn’t see Him very well.
Then, of course, came the couple years in the last decade when I decided to be a more “nominal” Christian. All the people who were just sort of being Christian looked so much happier than I felt, so I decided to try to be like them. What I learned is there may be a whole lot of people in this world who are entirely happy living without God or only sort of having Him in their lives, but I am not one of those people.
Then there is me now. I thought about these last few years of awesomeness. I can’t believe it has already been four and a half years since I decided to put God back in first place in my life. On this occasion, I didn’t find my way back to God. I knew where He was all along, and I was just running away. I kept running away until I pretty much destroyed myself.
There are good things about pretty much destroying yourself. In my case, it left me with fewer things to run after when I came crawling back to Him. And I wasn’t crawling because He was some big bad judge with a huge stick ready to beat me. I was crawling because I had run so far and fallen so badly I had no strength to do anything other than collapse at His feet. I suppose He has pretty much spent the last few years getting me back into running shape.
Back to focus. (After all, that was supposed to be the focus of this article.) I have realized my focus on God has become so much clearer these last few years. I wish I could say it was my passion that had something to do with it, but that would really be giving myself credit where credit is not due. Truth is when I made it to Jersey three and a half years ago, I started to follow God and make all the “right” decisions because I had nothing else in life left anyway, so I figured I might as well follow God. I had nothing to lose. There is the other truth in my story that when I came here, I was extremely determined to not make the same mistakes I had made over the prior years. I had no desire whatsoever to repeat that kind of pain.
I couldn’t figure out one driving force to motivate my life. Nothing to live for anyway, so I figured I might as well see how just following God worked. I had always been in pursuit of something. Some goal: career, education, whatever, you-name-it, I was always pursuing something.
I think it is pretty amazing that even if the only reason I turned to Him is that my idols had me in unbearable pain, He still took me and redeemed me.
Back to focus. (Clearly something I could work on.) But what I have seen over the last few years, is my vision as I focus on God has become so much clearer. He keeps asking me to give up the idols that were blurring my line of vision. I can see Him now. I know He is good because I have actually experienced it.
Oddly enough, most of my experience of His goodness seems to come through sacrifice. Sometimes I willingly bring the idol to Him and lay it as His feet. (Okay, I could give you zero specific examples of that actually ever happening in my life.) Generally He pries them from my clenched fists, as I whimper something ridiculous like, “God, don’t you know I need this? It is so good.” Then after a few weeks or months living without what I thought was good, I learn it actually had been so bad.
I wonder if the me eight years ago would have made so many bad decisions had she known God was so good. The problem with the me eight years ago is you couldn’t have told her anything if you tried anyway. She was too busy suppressing truth to know it when it hit her in the face.
I want to be so focused on Him again that I don’t notice the “pain” of sacrifice. I want to be a joyful giver. I want to “get to” serve not “have to” serve. Frankly, I am quite thoroughly convinced there is no such thing as serving with a “have to” attitude. I am not sure what one would call it, but I am sure I am not serving when I think I am deserving of being served instead.
For example, this morning I was annoyed by an email from my boss. It was not a big deal at all except I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by her very reasonable and polite request. I sighed with frustration, then stopped and asked myself, “Laura, who is supposed to serve who around here? Your role is to be her servant. Shut up!” And myself answered myself, “Oh yeah, duh.” and my frustration lifted because I remembered my role is to serve.
I want to have that in my relationship with God. I want to be a servant. I want to be so focused on His glory that I don’t get caught up in trying to make myself great and bringing attention to myself. When I do, I quit serving Him and start making demands of Him.
Basically, I want to quit being a spoiled, entitled brat. I want to start being a fully devoted follower of Christ who is entirely enraptured by God’s goodness.
What is the focus of your life? Do you find yourself often getting distracted from what you would like to be focused on? What can you do to change it?