Whatever I am doing, whatever the context, I usually find my thoughts from one circumstance begin to shed light on other areas. One of the problems I regularly deal with at work is distractions. I was never meant for a cubicle environment, especially in a busy traffic area. As I began to ponder what I should do to deal with all of the distractions that are crowding in on my time, I found myself thinking about David, father of Solomon and slayer of Goliath, and how his life (especially his interior life) changed as he transitioned from the solitary existence of young family shepherd to an overwhelmingly distracting life as the King of Israel.
How does my problem working in a cubicle environment relate to David you may ask? As a shepherd, David had few distractions. While looking out for predators that might harm his flock, which did require a steady vigilance, his had plenty of time to concentrate on his flute and his own thoughts. It was during that period in his life that he grew into the poet/musician who wrote most of the Psalms and became the beloved of God. His strong relationship with God and the trust that is an essential part of that relationship, knew no hindrances. His “God focus” was strong.
This focus had important implications. That is why when he visited his brothers in the camp of Israel, he could not understand their fear of the enemy. It is also why he could step forward without hesitation to face giant Goliath, while all around him the soldiers of Israel cowered in fear. His undistracted life, lived in tune with the heart of God, allowed him to face the enemies of God without fear or hesitation.
Over the last two years, as I have re-entered working fully in an external environment (versus my own home office with relatively small amounts of time spent at customer sites), the problem of distractions and how they can sap your energy and focus has come to the forefront. As moderns, living in a rapid changing technological world, we are deluged by distractions. However, added to the distractions I face at work, there are other specific distractions that take an inordinate amount of my time, when I compare myself to all those who come before us. I feel you can relate to this as well.
For some it is entertainment or amusement. Take television. We get embroiled in an ongoing series that demands our attention, with beguiling characters who become almost friends (or enemies), so much so that we invest in their story and the outcome of their many trials and tribulations. We just have to see what happens next and then we have to talk about it with our friends and coworkers.
For others, sports are an area of intense distraction/commitment and now with the Internet and satellite/cable there is no off season. We go from football to basketball, baseball, golf, horse racing, NASCAR, lacrosse, soccer, and a myriad of lessor sports. There is always something happening somewhere, sometime. Some event or competition to demand our attention, to distract us.
There are also the “important” things in life such as politics and causes, everyday news and events, and disasters both natural and man made, not to mention war, poverty, famine, disease, and now terrorism. Then there is the great bugaboo of our time: energy and all that entails from oil to natural gas to the price it takes to fill up your car this week and the constant worry that seems to engender.
We are bombarded, overloaded, deluged with distractions. In the midst of all of that, where do we find the time, the focus, the energy to spend any time with God, much less become his beloved, to make him the center of who we are?
With this constant overload, how can we separate the essential from the trivial and the distracting? How can we take the necessary time to relax from our labors without those venues of relaxation becoming not our servants but our masters, the focus of our lives? You may remember the old McDonald’s advertising campaign built around, “You deserve a break today.” It is the deserve part that begins to insinuate its hold on us and we begin focus, not on what we need to do, or on how God might be slipping from the central focus of our lives, but how we deserve to be rewarded, how we deserve our distractions; our entertainment, games, sports, our whatever. I believe the great lie of the Devil is that we deserve [insert whatever is important to you here].
Look what happened to David. I think all of his problems can be traced to his becoming distracted, to his losing his focus on God, to having God as central in all of the moments and decisions of his life slip away. He certainly did not have God at the center of his thinking when he allowed the glimpse of Bathsheba and the subsequent decisions that he made from what should have been an accidental and passing glance run his kingship into ruin. He was King. Times were tough. He deserved a break today. His focus shifted from God to himself. He then began making decisions that were self-centered and self-deceiving and slide into gross sin intensified.
How about us? Can you not trace most of the failures, most of the times of sin in your life to a similar process? Don’t distractions help remove God far enough from your immediate decision tree that you become self-centered and as a result, self-deceiving?
It is significant that David begs God not to remove his Spirit from him, a valid and important request. However, I never see David (I may be missing it) lament the loss of his earlier closeness to God and begin a struggle to regain that intimacy and primacy. Imagine the difference if he had done so.
Imagine the difference in our own lives if we would do so. Yes, it is difficult maintaining the moment of inertia that is present when we have that sense of walking in step with God, with his will and his way being primary in our decisions. But it is impossible in the face of allowing ourselves to give in to the many distractions that assault us, of allowing them to go from being our servants, giving us times of rest and relaxation, to becoming our masters and becoming the drivers our decisions.
We do not deserve a break today. It might be wise to take a break, but not because we deserve it. Let me close with one of Jesus’ more difficult lessons. It comes from the Gospel of Luke:
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” Luke 17:7-11
No, I do not deserve a break today. I have only done what was my duty. I must not allow myself to become distracted from that duty, to make decisions that do not have God at the center of the process, to allow myself to become distracted, self-centered, and self-deceiving.