“The soul is torn apart in a painful condition as long as it prefers the eternal because of its Truth but does not discard the temporal because of familiarity.”
― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
How long has it been since your last distraction?
Sometimes, they last for a short time and then you refocus and get back to it. I was trying to get a calculation mistake corrected in an email the other day and almost had to chase everyone out of my office so I could focus and get it right. That was a brief distraction and I can’t do math equations with five conversations going on all around me.
There are all sorts of sources of advice about how to keep focused and avoid those inevitable distractions. That kind of advice can be a wonderful distraction itself when you’re tired of whatever task is before you.
“I always advise people never to give advice.” ― P.G. Wodehouse
What about the ones that take us away for long, long stretches of time and space? Distractions that become habits. Persistent distractions that get in the way consistently.
I was thinking the other day about being distracted for years. Is it possible that a distraction can last that long? Can distraction(s) keep you from what you know is really essential? Can you become distracted for so long that you forget the real purpose, meaning, calling, direction, plan or obedient steps to your life?
It seems like whole seasons of my life pass by and I end up distracted by so much urgency. I was thinking THIS was the big plan but then one day realized it was all a distraction. I get frustrated or angry or despondent because of the distraction of this present moment – losing sight of eternity. Days blend into one long blurr because I’ve lost touch with the eternal purpose that I know is lodged in my soul and draws me onward.
Circumstances get blamed for their distracting effect. I just finished teaching my Sunday School class about Saint Paul chained up in a ship sailing through a fourteen day hurricane all the while giving the captain nautical advice. God had told Paul that he was going to take him to Rome. Even the certainty of a shipwreck, over two hundred panicked passengers, crew members fighting for everyone’s life, none of that could distract him from his certainty of where he had been told he was going – even if it meant a potential execution.
I’m so glad that he never gave up. It inspires me to keep running, despite the failures, opposition and distractions…
I think he was able to keep from being distracted because he had something very certain and specific to focus his mind, heart and soul upon. Unlike Peter, Paul didn’t start to sink but kept his eyes of faith on what he knew was eternal. He certainly suffered tremendous physical, emotional and social pain. Read his epistles and at times he reveals how much he struggled. But, he wasn’t distracted.
“Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1
Circumstances, like weather, change. I don’t want to have a fair weather faith. Even when I’m soaked to the soul, I want to ignore more and more of those constant distractions and keep walking as if I’m a citizen of eternity right now.
“It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it as the butterfly in the light-laden air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life.”
― Richard Jefferies