Why am I more likely to be thinking about a computer game while waiting for the bus than to be mulling over this week’s memory verse or praying for persecuted Christians in Somalia?
I am interested in how to constrain my mental and emotional focus so that I ponder Christ and am captivated by Him rather than the useless shiny glittering junk of my everyday world. I suspect that this is an issue for many Christians, I know that it is a multi-million dollar industry in the business world as the popularity of books such as Getting Things Done by David Allen attests. The tendency to get distracted is common to all and seems to be becoming worse as technology delivers ever more of the world to our gadgets. It has been shown that multitasking is a myth, all we really do is switch quickly between tasks and this actually reduces concentration rather than making us more creative, efficient or clever.
Clearly a wise solution to distractions is to reduce the number and frequency of them. I also find that some distractions are more distracting than others — people talking loudly is more distracting than music playing, phones ringing are worse than traffic noises, emotional turmoil is harder to ignore than a cluttered desk. It is this last contrast which gets me closer to my concern about maintaining my focus on Christ, how to get my emotions more engaged with the glory of God?
The things that take my attention are those with the strongest emotional pull. They don’t have to be good emotions — anxiety, stress and pain are not pleasant but they certainly hold my attention! However, emotions are slippery things, very difficult to control or manipulate at will. So is there any hope of taming my distracted heart?
I think there is. It involves that awful ‘D’ word… discipline! I have to discipline myself to place my attention upon what is edifying for my soul, I have to monitor the ‘inputs‘ into my life and turn off those that are pulling me away from Christ and maybe even find some more that will turn my thoughts towards Him. Most of all though, I need to think deeply about Christ. This needn’t be a dry academic exercise — if so there is not much hope for me! The intention is to move beyond superficial thoughts of ‘Jesus meek and mild’ and ponder the meaning of who He is, who I am in relation to Him, and how I can relate to Him. As I grow in my understanding of Jesus Christ my emotions are moved in solid and positive ways. I join the quest that motivated the Apostle Paul:
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 ESV)