The amount of information that we are fed on a daily basis is incredible. If you turn on any major news channel for five minutes, you can see the news anchor, the ticker, and countless other sources of information happening all at the same time. With so much going on, is it a wonder that we get fairly distracted?
Life is full of distractions. I'm reminded of the words of John Lennon, who said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Some distractions are good and necessary, while others have the potential to derail us from the things that matter. Wisdom is knowing the difference between the two and doing your best to avoid the latter.
Lately, I have been feeling a lot of the latter, enough to be concerned. Part of this is because what is a distraction to me is important to someone else. I tend to think that those kinds of distractions are good and necessary. If someone else sees it as important, chances are, there's something about it that I might be missing. But there are other distractions that simply prevent me from getting done the important things. I think that our selfish nature has a tendency to overtake us at times, causing us to see things that are insignificant as more important than they really are.
It's always a challenge to stay focused during the Advent season, but as I become more and more aware of the potential, I guard myself from it. It's not the busy times in life where the problem comes. Busyness can actually be helpful because it gets us on our guard, heightening our awareness of the potential for distraction and missing things. It's the other times, when things seem to be happening as usual, when we can be distracted and led astray from what really matters.
My tendency with distractions is to lash out at the person, or people, who are the cause of them, but I have found that I need to take a deeper look. Why is this so important to them? What am I not seeing at first glance? Is there something that I missed? Back to the selfishness thing again, I know that there are times when this isn't the case, I haven't missed anything, people are just being people and trying to make it all about them.
My major frustration comes when distractions take away from vision and purpose. This happens often within the church. There is a twofold purpose within the church: to grow the saints and to grow the kingdom. The rub lies in the balance of those two things. We may lean heavily one way at the expense of the other and there emerges frustration and bitterness. A balanced approach is necessary but difficult.
The irony of this becomes when people think that the very things that are distractions are the ones upon which we are to focus. Everyone's got an axe to grind, a soapbox to stand on, a passion that ignites their bones, and most people are willing to stand up for those things given the right circumstances. The challenge is whether we are connected enough with the people around us so that should we miss something, they are relationally close enough to us to tell us the truth. Do we allow people to point things out in our lives that may not be obvious to us but are blatant to the rest of the world?
There are days and times when I ask myself why I left engineering to become a pastor. I don't dwell on those times because, in the end, I'm convinced that I'm doing the very thing that God called me to do. Those times generally come when I am being distracted from the vision and purpose for which I am called, bogged down with trivialities that seem important to someone, but not to me. In a perfect world, we would be distraction-free, but this world is far from perfect.
In the grand scheme of things, I guess I deal with the distractions by doing just enough of what needs to be done to continue forward motion. If I allow them to consume me, they have won, they have derailed me from my vision and purpose, causing me to become unfocused. If I ignore them, I am at times insensitive and unsympathetic, making a non-verbal statement that what matters to me is more important than what matters to someone else.
Frankly, I don't know that I will ever get it right. It's a constant struggle, a tension, a tug-of-war, the endless game of balance. I do know one thing for sure, there are certain things that need to be ignored and I can rest assured that by ignoring them, I will most likely not be labeled insensitive or unsympathetic, maybe just irresponsible by some. If that's the price that I have to pay to stay focused on vision and purpose, so be it. One day, I will be held accountable to someone other than the ones who try to distract me, my answers on that day are far more important.
As Verbal said in The Usual Suspects, "“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Sometimes the devil is in the details, and those details distract us from getting done the things that really matter.