It's funny---sometimes---how being forced to slow down and wait can make you observe things that you probably would have missed otherwise. Such is the source of my writing this morning...
After dropping my youngest child off at school one morning this past week, I found myself in a line of cars all waiting to exit the parking lot. Directly in front of me was a smallish vehicle, a newer model built by Ford Motor Co. On the upper-left corner of the trunk was the model name: FOCUS. Directly opposite, on the upper-right corner, someone had placed a simple bumper sticker with one word: JESUS. The correlation of these two words screamed a message at me that could not be ignored.
Where is my focus? What is my focus? Am I focused at all?
It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind, so easy to get swept away with the political and societal issues of the day, those within the sanctity of the church, as well as those outside. Even within the supposed sanctuary of the religious organization of which I am part, there lies the potential to get caught up in the issues, the hot topics, the political firestorms, that we tend to lose our focus on what really matters.
We point fingers at those we disagree with, and we slap backs & high-five those who think, act, preach and teach like we do. We get caught up in the debates about who's doing what, why they're doing it, who's going to be the greatest in the kingdom, etc, and never realize that we're in danger of missing what we should be focused on.
It's still all about Him. It's still His Kingdom, and He will continue to do what He has planned from the beginning of time. If I choose to be a part of it, then I have to readjust my focus, and tune back in to Jesus, to what He wants, to what He expects of me. The mundane things of day-to-day life will take care of themselves. Jesus even told His disciples at one point "You've got enough trouble for one day; don't worry about what's around the corner." (That's a paraphrase, but I'm sure it will suffice.)
Not coincidentally, just before He spoke these very words, Jesus had just taught His disciples, along with the multitude on the mountain, about "focus". In Matt. 6 we find a portion of the "Sermon on the Mount", and Jesus had just wrapped up by telling His listeners to "seek ye first the Kingdom of God..."
I don't believe God wants us to live in a shell, secluded or ostracized from the rest of society. I don't believe, as some do, that God expects us to live a life of poverty or total sacrifice; as a matter of interest, John tells us "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." 3 John 2-3 (NKJV) I believe, however, that the secret behind this is in maintaining the proper focus. We are to seek first the Kingdom; we are to focus on God, and on what is right and best for His Kingdom. It's a matter of where our focus is.
I am legally blind, by my optometrist's professional opinion. I have worn glasses since first grade, and have gotten progressively worse through the years. At age 43, the rate is accelerating, and I can no longer do some of the things I used to do. For instance, I have enjoyed success as a welder in the past, but due to the need to focus on precision welds, I have failed more welding tests, and lost more potential job opportunities, because my eyes can no longer focus.
It's not only a frustrating thing; it's also a tiny bit scary when your eyes will no longer bring things into focus. Reading an atlas (something every preacher does, I think, from time to time; it's fantasy escapism at its best) has become next-to-impossible because of the fine print. Even reading a bible isn't easy anymore. I told my wife just yesterday that the next atlas I buy will have to be one of those "large-print editions" for senior travellers. And I'm only 43. I can't stomach the thought of walking to a platform with a giant-print bible...
New glasses might fix the problem; I've even considered the new surgical methods of vision correction. Thousands of dollars, yes...but to restore my ability to focus...you better believe it's worth it.
Where is my focus? It should be on Jesus, first and foremost. I must remember that I am the servant, and He is the Master. I am the disciple; He is the Teacher. I am the clay, but He is the Potter and Maker of this vessel. It is imperative that I keep these aspects of relationship in the proper perspective, lest I become familiar with Him, and lose my focus.
What is the object of my focus? It should be the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness first of all. Let all these things be added as He sees fit, not as I demand them. Even the disciples managed to lose their focus, though they walked with Him daily. They debated amongst themselves as to who would be the greatest, while strangely losing sight of the Greatest among all. God manifest in human form walked with them, yet after only a few years of being His disciples, it suddenly became all about them and their role. How much easier is it for me to forget the object of my focus?
Am I still able to focus? Believe me when I tell you that this declining vision has opened my eyes to the more important things of life: Can I still focus on the things that truly matter? Is my spiritual vision waning along with my natural vision? Have I lost the ability to focus on the Master? Has He, like the tiny print of my atlas, or the miniscule lines in my bible, become blurred in my sight? Do I find myself being forced to squint to make out what He wants me to see?
Two words have served to clear up some of the blur in my heart's vision; I only pray that my sight will not fail me in the future.