Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be singlemindedly focused on what is important when we live in a world full of distractions? Take for example my typical date night - even after 12 1/2 years, I try to "dress to impress" my husband, along with fixing my hair and make-up. When we arrive at the restaurant, be it a Sushi place or Earls or McDonalds (not that we like the food, but it happens to be open 24 hours now, and you don't have to leave a tip!) and when we find a spot to sit, there are some uncompromisable requirements. In fact, if we don't follow these "rules", our date and time together is in jeopardy.
Somehow over the years, sitting and have a conversation around the dinner table has become uncomfortable for many people and obligingly, restaurants have televisions strategically placed around the room so you won't miss the score, no matter what table you're seated in. There's a huge problem with this though. Remember how I said that I do my best to put an effort into my appearance on date nights? Well, unfortunately, to the male brain, a pretty wife can not compete with the bright, flashing, moving images on a tv screen. There have been countless times in our married life when I am spilling the contents of my day over a bowl of rice vermecelli and spring rolls, and my husband has drifted from meaningful connection to a distant place... about 3 feet above my head, mounted on the wall. So our solution (and mandatory dating protocol) has been to seat ourselves in such a way that he can't easily see the tv. It's not that he's a jerk and that the hockey score or the news is more important to him than I am; it's just that he suffers from the common male disorder of "watch-the-moving-picture-itis". It could be the most boring, slow-moving show, but somehow the colors and lights draw his eyes to become mesmerised despite his determination and effort. So, after all these years, we make a habit of "casing the joint" as we arrive, and asking for the less desirable seating, out of the line of sight from any televisions.
Carrying on in the same idea of distractions, I experienced a rather revolting experience a couple days ago at the gym. I hopped onto the treadmill and began my workout, only to find that the individual next to me had chosen to watch MuchMusic on the tv that was directly in front of her, and slightly to the right of my line of vision. I almost never even pause on this channel during the rare times that I have an opportunity to watch cable television, and it would pretty much be one of my last choices if I was forced to watch tv. It may be called "artistic", but the music videos of our day and age (I feel) are pornographic in nature, and crammed full of lascivious, self-worshiping behavior that leaves the viewer with a twisted sense of "party life" and immoral living. If I were to describe a couple of the videos I saw, I feel I might be venturing into explaining something far too liscentious for this blog; that would make both myself and many of my readers uncomfortable. Let's just say that the women dressed in their fancy "underwear" costumes, gyrating with anyone and everybody, and the not-so-subtle self-expression, is not something that I would call artistic; but sinful, lustful, wanton idolatry. Because if you are honest with yourself, everything about "that" music is derived from a sense that "I deserve to feel good and make myself happy, no matter what it looks like". Yuck. If' I've stepped on some toes, I'm sorry... this is my perspective (and my Blog, I might add!), and I feel that my perspective also accurately lines up with what the Bible professes and upholds.
However, let's get back to the subject on hand - I wasn't planning on bashing modern music, but rather discuss the idea of distractions. Given the nature of the music videos, almost directly in my line of sight, I had great difficulty keeping myself from watching! I seriously contemplated closing my eyes, because like moths drawn to the light, my eyes would keep wandering back to the screen in disgusted fascination. Unfortunately closed eyes and intense cardio training do not mix, as the disorientation and dizziness set in almost immediately. So instead, I tried to memorize the license plates of cars in the parking lot that was in view of the window directly in front of me: "CYR 117" on the early 90's model Oldsmoblie and "PMB 778" on a blue minivan.
Of course, all the issues and idea of distraction got me thinking deep thoughts... as the odd situations in life generally do. I began to compare the effect of television trying to distract me, to the "off the beaten path" everyday circumstances in my personal life that distract me from my goals and purposes. For instance, when I'm trying to teach the kids, and a major catastrophe breaks out and "so-and-so" has poked "what's-his-face" in the arm again, and we aren't focused on the Bible passage we were reading, and I nearly blow my top for the 32nd time that day, forgetting that we're supposed to be learning about grace and peace and the goodness of God.... yah, I become quite distracted. What a fantastic example I am to my kids! (NOT!)
In light of an existence that promotes busyness and ongoing stimulus, I've come to terms with the fact that I need to develop a coping mechanism for the frequent occasions where I'm thrown off track. I can't make the distractions go away - and hiding out from the world only works for a short time. I love the scripture: "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" from Psalm 46:10. Given our frenetic tendencies in society today, and knowing the fact that I have committed myself to a very busy, active household with 6 kids, I MUST fall back onto my relationship with God and the fact that He wants to be the center of my life and my purposes. However, life is distracting. Whether it is a moment of frustration at the people around me, or whether it is the mundane day-to-day necessities like dishes and laundry and bad traffic - we aren't encouraged to be centred and focussed on God. Instead, we focus on whatever is poking and prodding us, or whatever voice is the loudest in our heads, or whatever lights flash most brightly in our line of sight.
In all of this rambling, I've come up with a solution for myself. When the cyclone of human existence and all of it's mess is raging around me, I have the option to stare wide-eyed in panic and clamor in an effort to control myself; or I can close my eyes and seek the God who knows all, sees all and who will be exalted in this earth. I think that by the simple act of submission in closing my eyes and saying a prayer - even just "HELP!", I will be purposefully setting aside the distractions and giving God an opportunity to be glorified in my life.
I'm so thankful for a God who is present. We don't have to go to a sanctuary or temple to get His attention; He is always available and desiring to be involved in your situation. So next time I feel like life is jolting me off track, and my temper flares or I'm just genuinely frustrated with stuff, I'm going to head into His presence. In the midst of life, we can take a moment to shut our eyes (please don't do this if you are operating heavy machinery at the time!) and we can be still for a moment, knowing that He truly is God. Inasmuch as we allow Him an opportunity to help us at times of distraction, I believe life will become more on track and purposeful than we ever thought possible. As I seek to live a more focused, purposeful life, I'm learning that all I really need is to be centered and focused on God.
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