I’ve not got the greatest attention span.
One of the quirks of my personality that my lucky wife has to put up with is my ability to tune out mid-conversation if there’s any sport on a nearby television. Football. Rugby. Tennis. Darts. Snooker. Cricket. Tiddly winks. It doesn’t matter. If it catches my eye, I can often miss whole sentences of an exchange. It’s quite the talent, I know.
It’s a wonder she agreed to marry me at all!
Distraction. It’s a tricky thing. In fact, it’s a dangerous thing.
Maurice McCabe is a name you will have not been able to escape over the past couple of weeks. In a very basic summary, McCabe is making allegations against senior Gardai, and there is much controversy over how the Gardai handled the allegations, as well as how the Government have handled it. There are accusations ranging from just being negligent to a full-on cover up.
What has ensued is arguments, counter-arguments, accusations, all-day debates in the Dáil, statements from the Government front bench, an endless string of politicians and commentators sticking their oar in, calls for the Government to fall, calls for the head of the Gardai to stand down, calls for a General Election and much more besides.
As important as it is, is it more important than discussing our housing crisis, the inequity in society, the fact the health service is at breaking point, the effect of climate change, or any number of issues of social justice that are affecting people right now.
I’ve just watched one of the most incredible pieces of television I’ve ever seen – the latest Donald Trump press conference. He’s treating the Presidency like his own reality TV show – ranting, raving, attacking journalists, making no sense, continuing to bash Hillary, and we’re all falling for it hook, line and sinker. People go nuts. He’s been doing it since he won the election.
Distraction. Once you’re distracted, you take your eye off what’s actually important.
When writing to the Church in Philippi, the apostle Paul said the following:
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
His focus is on what’s ahead. Paul knows what matters. God has called Him heavenward in Christ, and he is ‘straining toward’ it. He does not veer off, he does not waver, he does not get distracted. His eyes are on the prize that is in Jesus, His Lord and Saviour.
My favourite book by CS Lewis is ‘The Screwtape Letters”. Read it if you get a chance. It’s the satirical tale of a senior demon named ‘Screwtape’ as he writes letters to his nephew ‘Wormwood’., who is learning from him how to be a demon. The nephew is responsible for making sure a man they refer to as ‘the Patient’ ends up in owned by the devil.
This is one of Screwtape’s recommendations on how easy it can be to distract us:
“You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”.
God’s commands are unambiguous.
Love the Lord your God with everything you have. Love your neighbor. Go make disciples of all nations. Everything he asks of us falls under one of those three remits.
Let’s make a commitment to focus on God, but not only that, but to try to minimise the distractions that often get in the way.
Let’s commit to pray, and when the time come not have our attentions diverted by a screen or a text or whatever.
Let’s commit to asking God to give us opportunities to do things in His name that fall under one of the three main commands that He gives us.
Let’s focus on Jesus, and on straining towards the prize that Christ has already won for us.