It’s August, and I feel a prodding to get my voice going again. The voice that says: “Hey, I’ve just been journeying silently alongside you for months now. You’ve not been alone, remember? We’re in this together—you, me, the LORD, and the rest of the gang that are bumbling along in our grace-covered state. We’re just trying, in our own, completely human way, to love and live our best selves in the daily joy and everyday muck. And it’s better when we live transparent and encourage each other along the way.” Yeah, that voice. So, here I am again.
Where have I been? Just here. Same life. Same stuff. I’ve been busy, like the rest of you, trying to balance the demands of everyday life with the activities of living Jesus. Let me rephrase that: I’m learning (again) that balance isn’t really what I’m going for. It’s more like calm, focused, unity of faith. I believe God’s expectation of His beloved (that’s you and me) isn’t an either-or kind of thing. It’s more like an only. “Only live with Me in your relationships, your work, your errands, your family, My church, in the world.” The rest isn’t there, waiting for us to pick it up and place on the other side of the scales that will stay balanced because of our efforts on the “holy side.” There is no “other stuff.” It’s only living in all that He gives us with Him, alongside and part of every piece.
I’m on a serious journey here, to throw obstacles off the trail, with the grace and help of the Holy Spirit. You’re welcome to join me. While you’re here, please feel welcome to heave a few things off the path for me, I need the help.
Here’s where I began several weeks ago, the gazillionth restart of this particular journey…
I have discovered something about myself (tucked among hundreds of joyous surprises and disappointing faults): I am easily distracted. Well, that’s not really news to me, or anyone that knows me. Specifically, what I am determined to claim hold of, and wrestle free from my spirit, is the tension and soul oppression that comes from splintered focus.
Experience has taught me that God takes willing hearts through a process by which, with His help, we gather all the pieces of ourselves into one place. In that space, He reveals to us the impact that different influences, both inner and external, have on our walk with Him- on our growth and spiritual vibrancy. Even on our effectiveness. The process includes naming that which He helps us discover. To name it, is to recognize it more clearly, and view it as a unit, or pattern. Once named, the work to use it, or master it, becomes more focused and a less impeded journey. It’s a “know-thine-enemy or blessing” kind of thing.
I think, for me at least, its name is Distraction…
Naming this one has been difficult for me. It’s been a nagging influence on everything, but out there on the periphery. The pieces have been so scattered, that they get easily shunted aside, slid underneath other, noisier things that demand my time and energy. But its influence is powerful. Like the grain of sand that irritates the oyster into creating a luminescent pearl, this ‘thing’ is felt in all, and this one, in particular, is binding both my spirit and body to inaction.
For a long time, I have seen Satan’s work here. In his opposition to God’s will and work, I have witnessed him crafting subtle ways to prevent deep love relationships with the LORD and His people. Honestly, I think he’s subtle far more often than he is obvious. Wouldn’t you be, if you were trying to shift someone’s perspective without their awareness?
So, here’s the thing, I am making a decision, and with the decision, effort and commitment. I’m breathing deep here, because with that, Dear Ones, comes Opposition.
I will, with God’s help (and guaranteed power), define and name that which, in its entirety, is keeping me from releasing myself fully to Him and His plans for me. Thank God, He is Who He is, and His work is succeeding without my paltry contribution! However, I want to be part of it. Truly, I do. My heart is motivated by love and gratitude, and not by obligation or with a relinquishing of who I am , because it’s Whose I am that I love most about my life.
I’m not sure, but here is why I believe in this season, my worst obstacle is Distraction…
My mind and spirit are not settled, and haven’t been in over a year. While secure in the LORD, the specific directions and actions He has planned for me keep bouncing around. I am full of observations of needs, but too often do not act. Afraid to diversify so much, I become completely fragmented and ineffective, and end up spinning my wheels, doing nothing. Ugh. I am embarrassed to confess that. And really, it would be easier if you would just forget what I just said.
Allow me to give you one personal example (I have a boatload to choose from):
For a very long time, I was a partner with God as He guided me to write about my relationship with Him, with us, as He revealed His strength, power, and compassion in His Word. A hope I had was, that whatever simply put together words I shared about my journeys with Him, that He placed on the path of another, would draw their hearts closer to His as He draws mine.
Then, I stopped. My soul felt the loss of the discipline of writing, and my spirit suffered. It hasn’t been about what I write, or whether or not my ramblings find an ‘audience’, but communing with God over His word, listening to His voice in my heart, and writing it down to hold it and remember it—those were the very acts that He used to bind my heart to His. I’ve been missing the blessings. I’ve also been missing the blessing of holy companionship. Occasionally some of you would pop in and join me in the conversation. I can’t tell you how much of an encouragement you are!
Isn’t it the same for any of us, when God clearly begins to reveal to us a ministry or discipline or talent or opportunity, and we stop listening to His voice within it, and cease to join Him there?
Our soul aches because it recognizes His voice and is unsatisfied.
That longing? That spirit of unsettledness? Yep. That’s what it is—the recognition, but incompletion, of the unity we have with God, in Christ, as we are joined together in something that He has designed us to do.
I imagine the same occurs for you when you are distracted away from partnering with God in worship, study of scripture, fellowship, service, meditation, writing, creating, snapping photos, cooking up a storm, singing your heart out, shepherding children, listening to others, shuttling those who need a ride, fixing things, visiting the sick, sending thoughtful e-mails…the list is endless.
What do we do?
We name the obstacle so it can be contained.
We open our hearts to God’s Spirit and ask for discernment as we recognize the ways in which we are pulled away from His heart.
We deliberately get back on the path, every time, and fix our eyes on Jesus.
And we heave things out of our way, or step aside willingly while Someone Else casts things (people, situations, desires) aside..
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1,2 (NIV)
Did you know that the original word God has the author use here for ‘everything that hinders’ means whatever is prominent, a protuberance, a bulk, a mass–a burden, weight, encumbrance. Don’t you find it interesting that it is mentioned separate and apart from the sin that entangles us? It’s the stuff that just gets in the way. Are the distractions good things, like work and family and relationships? We must be deliberate in not allowing God’s good things to become exactly that which draws us away from Him. Remember, however, we are only called to throw off the parts that get in the way.
God’s beloved have been fighting a war against distraction since the beginning! What to do? Lay it aside. I love the NIV translation: Throw it off! Is it fear? Is it laziness? Is it our schedules? Is it selfish pursuits? Is it technology? Taking on too much? Taking on too little? A hobby? Lack of confidence or experience? We must deliberately throw them off.
So there will be a little heaving going on over here. I fear I will need to use a strong solvent to disengage from some…
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2,3 (NIV)
Hide everything in Christ. Cloak all that we do with Him. Listen to the Spirit’s prompting.
That’s my plan. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, stay encouraged. You’re in good company. And heave away!