What to Do When You’re Distracted

“I had more freedom now and I had to feel my way into it, see which barriers had fallen and which still were up… I couldn’t be satisfied until I knew the boundaries and where the openings were, if any.”   Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, c. 2000

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When Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” I think He meant the words more as a protection than anything else. A protection and a promise. (Matthew 7:13,14)

I am very easily distracted, especially by other folks’ words. If there are conversations going on around me while I’m trying to listen to a friend, I have a hard time focusing. And when I have too many words—virtual or on paper, it’s almost as difficult to concentrate or hear. (I recently donated two enormous shopping bags of books to Goodwill because it was too “noisy” in my living room.)

In the wake of the recent Presidential election, I almost let the weight of All the Words crush me. Everyone had an opinion or argument, even fellow believers. Especially fellow believers.

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Besides being easily distracted, I have a knack for people-pleasing and being easily influenced. I began engaging in online conversations just to have my say or prove my point. In the process, I almost forgot who I was and what God has called me to.

Of course, our enemy would like nothing better than for us to engage in conversations that add no fruit to our lives or further God’s kingdom. Distractions can be helpful in accomplishing this. Those verbal pathways don’t have to be evil or dangerous, but if they’re not part of my journey, I don’t need to be going there. 

So, an epiphany occurred: perhaps I need to marshal my forces, circle the wagons, so to speak, around what I know is my world right now. Not the world at large, but the world at hand. My wagon-circling involved tightening the borders of social media around me, being intentional about the companions I have on this journey, making my world smaller, on purpose. Not because I disapprove of others’ dialogues but because I know the distractions will keep me unfruitful in the days I have. Sixty plus years behind me are a megaphone reminding me to be purposeful in the decades I ahead.

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What’s in my hand to do may be different than yours. I can’t tell you what you “should” be doing, or reading or saying, for that matter, only God can tell you that. I do know for me, writing in this space is a gift God has allowed me to share; I feel the most like me when I invest in that. Beginning an online group for faith-based writers is another place to bury my days. Ministering to my church family and community in this coming season is also a privilege and joy.Talking with neighbors, refugees, people of color, friends who may not confess the same faith I do, it’s all part of that world at hand.

Maybe Jesus made such a big deal about how we walk “through that narrow gate” not because the world is a terrible, horrible, no good very bad place but because the path He’s set before us is ours alone to walk.

Let’s not get distracted.

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “What to Do When You’re Distracted

  1. agree, agree, agree. You make me think of this verse that’s been rattling around in my head for the last few weeks, in I Corinthians 7, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” And while, sure, this is in the context of discussing marriage/singleness, it obviously applies to whatever station one finds himself or herself because that too is where God has you. I love how you said you want to “marshal my forces, circle the wagons, so to speak, around what I know is my world right now. Not the world at large, but the world at hand. My wagon-circling involved tightening the borders of social media around me, being intentional about the companions I have on this journey, making my world smaller, on purpose.” Me too. So good.

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    1. Shanna, this message was also “rattling around” in me in the post-election melee. We need to stay focused on Kingdom work, tending toddlers, going to coffee, loving our neighbors, cooking dinner; whatever is in our hand to do.
      Thanks so much for letting me know this resonated with you.

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  2. I’m easily distracted too, Jody. I used to read, have the TV on, listen to somebody talk, all at the same time. ha. Now I am best doing only one thing at a time, which is what I should have been doing all along anyway. ha. I agree with what you’re doing, circling the wagons around the narrow gate and walking that path.

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  3. Good, good stuff here. Words I needed to hear and need to now contemplate and act on. Something I Find I have to work on is keeping the voices around me at the appropriate volume. I’ve not been attending well to that this season, a time when–as a fellow people pleaser who is too easily influenced–I should have been. (You mentioned once that we may hear the same song. We seem to have many similarities.) Thanks for sharing these important words.

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  4. Wise words, Jody. These days, our boundaries are wider and less-defined than ever, with 24/7 social media. Thanks for sharing how you are circling the wagons around what God has ordained as important for you. You are so right: let’s not get distracted. Lord, help me also to set the priorities you’ve already chosen for this stage of my life!

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  5. Honoring current boundaries is the echo I’m hearing, Laurie. And I did indeed think about the Scripture, “the lines have fallen to me/us in pleasant places.” Safety and happiness come when I stay where God tells me to 🙂

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  6. loving “the world at hand,” yes! A new way to honor current boundaries. And so freeing to recognize, a-fresh, that “the lines have fallen to [us] in pleasant places”—maybe hard places but pleasant because of our belonging there amid “wagon-circling” grace, entrusted to us and tailored for each conversation and interaction. So encouraging on a rainy Monday morn. Thank you, Jody.

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