Posted by: toddzilla | March 14, 2007

Experiments in focus

Throughout my life I’ve always conducted little experiments and learned things through experience.  I’ve always been curious about most anything.  If it’s an assembly or a mechanism and nobody else is around…I will take it apart.  My wife rolls her eyes as she sees me pulling stuff apart or staring up at the ceiling of a building to note its structure or asking questions about the most inane stuff…and I do it just because I want to know how it works and why it works.  I pulled the ol’ pencil-in-a-glass-of-water refraction trick and the ol’ shift-your-focus-from-objects-in-the-foreground-to-those-in-the-background trick.

Well, the last one, the foreground/background trick came to a new light to me as I was in my car praying on my ride to work (I’m sure a lot of other folks have prayed in my car while I was driving).  My windshield was a bit dirty and I quickly noticed that if I focus on the dirt on my windshield that I lose focus on what’s ahead of me.  The Lord then placed it on my heart that that’s exactly what I do in my Christian life.  I focus on small things that are close and lose sight of the big picture (the more important picture…i.e. traffic).  Allow me to extend the metaphor.  The dirt on my windshield represents the stuff that comes up in everyday life that I focus on.  This of course, relegates God’s presence in my life to the out-of-focus background.  If your “windshield” is dirty, the natural tendency is for us to focus on that dirt…so how can we keep that windshield clean?  Or, failing that, how can we “unlearn” our tendency to focus on that “dirt” and turn our concentration on God’s purpose and presence in our lives?  How can we set aside the things that pop up and distract us?

Confession time!  The same curiousity that I mentioned earlier reared its normally-acceptable head in church a couple of weeks ago.  We have these wood buttresses in our sanctuary that are all along the interior wall and arc up to a single point at the highest part of the ceiling.  So I have to check them out closely (when I should be paying attention to the service) because there’s no way they could be a single piece of wood and sure enough I dissect the buttresses to determine that they are laminated with many pieces of lumber, but that’s not enough…how do they get it curved?  Normally, you would just heat it and curve it slowly over time, but I had never seen it done with lumber that thick and what about the tensile/compressive stresses at the glue joints!  I know I know…I’m getting boring (I’m trying to put myself in your shoes…the reader…and now I know why my wife rolls her eyes when I do this kind of stuff).  But anyway, that’s just one way I get distracted.

How do you do it?  How do you keep focused?  Do you just make God a habit?  Then it becomes routine and I think it would be easy to find a rut.  I guess the first step is to start clearing your windshield.  Learn to leave things where they belong…leave work…at work.  Find time for a quick glancce upwards and a thank-you God.  I guess rather than habitualizing God, we should prioritize Him…then things would better fall into place.

What kind of things serve to dirty up your windshield?  Of course, you don’t have to post them here, just think about it.  Is it money?  School?  Sports?  Politics?  Think about what occupies your mind during the day and how you can fit them behind God.

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Responses

  1. I think you are right Todd, and the same can be said about the reverse side of your experiment. I tend to be an always focused on the road don’t notice the huge crack across my windsheild guy. We need to be intentional about looking at both the everyday and the long term. As far as paying attention in church goes, it can be hard for pastors, especially the third time through a sermon. Often if my mind is wandering, I redirect to holy wandering. I look through the congregation and I look at people, really look at them. I see their faces and try to see their souls. I pray for them, I allow God to speak to me about those I need to lift up and watch after. Then, I quickly pop up to invite people to the table! No, in reality, I am always working to reroot my thoughts in he service, the themes, the prayers and the songs. It is a mental discipline. Of course next time I am going to be staring at the beams and wandering how they bent them….

  2. I’m with ya’ll on the windshield, great analogy. I think sometimes I look big picture and let some things go unnoticed. Sadly for too long I’ve done that. When that happens, sometimes, that crack can block our image on the road.

    As for focusing in the church, I have to admit to my mind wondering at times to things of baseball, NASCAR, and lunch. I wish for those moments to be less.

  3. amen and amen!


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