Have you ever been distracted? Driven to distraction? Been behind the wheel and missed a turn because something took your attention on the side of the road? Of course, we all have. One of my clients was telling me this week how frustrated she gets when her teenager won’t look up from their laptop, or nintendo unit, when she is speaking to them. “They just seem to be lost in their own world,” she exclaimed. “I don’t know how to get them to listen.”
When our own children were at home, I remember experiencing similar emotions. I remember Bill and I walking into the living room one evening, to find each of our three girls engaged in different “screen activities.” For those of you not familiar with what I mean; “screen activities” are, by definition, anything that involves a screen: a laptop, a cell phone, a game system, a television, etc.
”It’s time to go,” Bill said that night. No response came. Each of the girls continued their activity, not hearing him; completely immersed in whatever had taken their attention. Raising his tone, he repeated himself. “I said… it’s time to go.” Still nothing…. We looked at each other… Did they need hearing aids?
At that point, my husband walked over to our oldest daughter, Rachel, sitting in the chair closest to the doorway where we were waiting. Deftly, he closed her laptop. Surprised, she looked up.
“Dad! I didn’t know you guys were ready. Hey, I was in the middle of a game!”
“I thought it might be something like that,” he said. He pointed to her two sisters, who were still engrossed in cell phone and game system. She followed his gaze to them. They still did not look up.
“Girls,” he repeated. “It’s time to go.” Then he called them by name.
Amazingly, both of our almost grown teens (at that time), looked up with bewildered faces. “What, Dad?”
“Didn’t you hear me?” he asked. “Your mother and I have been standing here for some time now. It’s time to go.”
“Can I finish this game first?” the youngest asked. (You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought… and …. no.)
Even remembering that day as I am typing, I find myself smiling. We had a really good talk about distractions over dinner that night — how things we enjoy can begin to consume all of our energy, and prevent us from missing the real deal. How a cell phone chat isn’t quite like a conversation in person with a real live human being; how getting to the next level of a video game can destroy all your energies to actively do something in real life. And, I have to say that the girls learned the lesson well. The initial training began that day, and took a little time and reminding. But now, more than six or seven years later, we will joke about the lesson when one of us forgets and brings a cell phone to the family table.
Nothing replaces real life — ever.
Nothing replaces the real thing — ever.
Its the same in our relationship with God. Continually, through the Scriptures, we are presented with an explanation of who God is — He is love, He is peace, He is the author of Grace and forgiveness, He is gentleness, He is patient, and He is good. He is also All-Powerful, All-mighty, and the Creator/Sustainer of all things. Without the Presence of God;– the planet — and each of us — would just disappear, disintegrate… ..
The book of Colossians tells us that He holds all things together within His Person. He is the Advocate; the Healer; the Comforter; the Teacher; the Refuge. He is the Perfect Parent. He identifies with and understands what we feel.
He accepts us and loves us — just as we are — and when we experience Pain, when we invite Him, He will meet us there. He will use that Pain to somehow birth something new and fresh through our lives — something that will make us wonder if the painful experience had actually been part of His plan. And yet, He is the giver of Life — He is good. It isn’t His nature to plan the bad stuff…
That comes from somewhere/someone else.
It is so important in our lives with Jesus, that we continually keep our hearts open to remember who He is….. and how much we have to be thankful for. It is too easy to become distracted, perhaps with the need to defend position or debate and argue. Recently, I have been exposed to a mindset that contends it is necessary for believers in Jesus to have heated debate in order to grow and learn…. I found myself walking away saddened somehow; perhaps because the opportunity for real fellowship had been lost….. Such a life approach destroys and prevents deep relationships — because the participants become distracted by the need to be right.
There are those who feel it is necessary to become immersed in angry discussions before they feel empowered…. Anger doesn’t really do much relational building. Instead, it isolates us, and pushes those we want to be close to farther away. Those who practice Anger never really understand how to have enduring friendships — they are distracted by the areas of disagreement, rather than by the areas where the Blood of Jesus covers all.
While I am sharing about this so candidly, let me just say that there is a final area of distraction. It is the trap of feeling responsible to define, label and critique the words and actions of others…. It’s an appealing trap, because it can become our defense mechanism; providing some sort of false protection, if you will. The end result with self-defense is that we eventually alienate everyone around us; only holding onto relationships with people who also hold our same viewpoints and religious posture. In the end, there is no one left to agree with us.. In the end, we will be alone.
We are called to love. We are called to listen. We are called to seek to understand.
As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, our first call in the Kingdom of God is to love each other the way Jesus loves us. We are never called to weigh in and prove a point. I have learned the hard way, just this week, in fact, that you cannot even defend yourself when someone has made up their mind to disagree with you. When the faulty communication showed itself, online yet, I tried, unsuccessfully to defend myself. I should never have done so…… I came away wounded and disappointed; feeling let down somehow by a lack of…. of what?
Perhaps by my own lack of ability to explain myself…. or the polarity of our two basic beliefs about how God reaches people. Perhaps I had said more than was necessary. Whatever the reason, half-way through the discussion it became evident to me that the conversation was going nowhere. What do you do in such moments?
Do you “slap” the other person’s cheek back? If I do that, I become just like the one who hurt me… or worse, I identify with the entity driving their behaviors…. When did good manners and the practice of civility take such a hit, I wonder? I found myself flat-footed, surprised….. with no arsenal in the emotional “backpack” …
Now, looking back at the conversation, I’m glad my “backpack” was empty…. Defense would have served no purpose. And thinking about it, what if this person is my neighbor in the Kingdom to come?
We each have a purpose.
I am comforted by the example of Jesus and His disciples.
Peter was an impulsive and mouthy hot-head;
James and John were anger based (“Sons of Thunder”);
Philip too analytical;
Thomas couldn’t decide what he believed;
Nathaniel (Bartholomew) was too innocent, trusting all of himself quickly;
Andrew and Thaddeus didn’t talk much, but observed;
Simon Zealot was a nationalist, confusing his patriotism with his faith;
Matthew had come out of politics and money-laundering;
James Alphaeus was too logical…
…and then there was Judas Iscariot, who lived and walked with Jesus, was sent out with the twelve, and with the seventy; who saw miracles; who passed judgment on worshippers; who verbalized his criticisms… and never let people see who he really was on the inside. Scary stuff.
One of my pastors preached a sermon many years ago. It was titled, “Kicked with Clean Feet.” You guessed it…. it was about how Jesus handled His human responses to Judas’ betrayal — just after the Lord of all had washed his feet…. It was about what we do when relationships in our lives turn out to be something other than what we expected. How do we handle betrayal? Or worse, condemnation and disapproval from those who also claim to know Jesus? We’ve all had it happen. Sadly, our human-ness sucks us in sometimes, and we want to defend ourselves. But Jesus never did that…. although He did explain Himself for who He was (is) and His purpose in coming… over and over again.
Its better to be vulnerable; to be known; to take risks — even if you get hurt in the end….
But… at the end of the day, it is just a distraction. Pulling our attention — From Him.
Disagreement, debate, and defense are sent to immerse us into a life that isn’t real… like a teenager with a laptop. Our Father speaks, and we can’t hear Him. “It’s time to go,” He says. Still we persist in our argument, or our defense….
We are distracted from the real calling — to press in to broken-ness to know the Lord. To seek Him for His plan and purpose to be made known on the earth; to find our own Calcutta.
Jesus is the only one who can change a heart.
So take heart….when disagreement happens in your sphere of influence, don’t be discouraged….. Recognize it for what it is — a distraction. You are called to love others. You are called as an agent of change for the Kingdom…. Look up. We are aliens and foreigners on this planet; it is not our home. We belong to the unseen Kingdom. We can’t afford to get immersed in the “not real.”
Dad will be standing in the hallway soon to take us to dinner.
(c)2010 DG Duplication for profit requires permission.