After taking stock on how grit impacted my past year, focus became my word for 2021. Now that the new year is four weeks old, it is time for my first monthly focus check.
Though focus is a commonly used word, I like to have its meaning clear in my mind. According to Dictionary.com focus, when used as a noun, denotes a central point of attention. The verb focus directs one’s attention to an activity, or to concentrate.
Before I can make changes, I need to determine where I currently focus. I know where it should be. But where is it most often? Sadly, my answer is all over the place! I pride myself on and appreciate when others recognize my mad skills of multitasking. I even do it while slumbering. When Jerry’s attendants work with him and ask a question, I often answer it from a dead sleep, and then immediately drop back to dreamland. But when awake, I realize multitasking creates frenzy in my spirit.
It became apparent when I tried to brush my teeth while also preparing a sinus medication for my husband. Seriously? I use an electric toothbrush. Do you know how hard it is to just hold a vibrating electric toothbrush in one’s mouth with no hands? And still hope it cleans my teeth? The absurdity of it all! No more! I can take the 15 extra seconds to prepare his rinse after I finish my teeth. This is one small thing that showed me how out of control my multitasking is.
Other factors causing my focus to drift off course include spending too much time on social media, taking in news stories, or comparing myself to others. I may need to accomplish scores of things, and be aware of what is going on around me, but I don’t want to live in frenzy. I want to live in the present and engage with who or what is before me.
My focus drastically needs change. Leadership gurus often tell the story of the Apollo rockets, which are off course 90 to 97 percent of their time en route to the moon. But because of regular course corrections, they make it to their destination. If that can happen among rocket scientists, I am in good company.
Admitting my problem with focus is only part of the solution. Seeking course corrections came next.
Because I have submitted my life to Jesus Christ and seek to live according to the instructions he set forth, he is whom I want as my primary focus. Matthew 6:33 reminds me of this, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [answers to the cares and worries of life] will be given to you as well.”
When I get my primary focus right, the secondary ones follow. But it is much easier to say or write than it is to practice moment by moment. To refresh my ability to seek the King and his Kingdom, I went back to the Bible.
Hebrew 12: 1-3 reminds me before I can properly focus, I need to strip off the weight, or sin, that so easily trips me up. How does it trip me up? It causes me to pull my sightoff of Jesus and to myself. Yes, I need to confess and turn from any and every sin. But it is my favorite sin, mindlessly running first to food for my comfort or celebration, instead of to my Lord, that most often diverts my focus.
Next, I need to run with endurance. I tried to be a runner, well, more like a jogger in my teen years. I remember huffing and puffing up and down Diverty Road. I don’t know how many days I ran, but I can tell you I did NOT endure!
That is why it surprised me when I signed up for a 5K advertised at our local airport. The idea of running or even walking did not entice me. It was the environment. The race began in the pre-dawn hours. We ran and walked on the runways. The Blue Angels’ planes lined the start, sending us off. As the morning dawned, hot air balloons fired up, inflated, and launched into the sky. Dozens of colorful and creatively shaped balloons motivated me to get up at an ungodly hour and endure a 5K walk. And trust me, it was endurance, and the encouragement of those who cheered me and the ten others who were last on the course to finish.
I understand the determination and stick-to-it-tiveness the Hebrews writer encourages me to practice. The balloons and cheers were my motivation to finish the 5K. The writer of Hebrews 12 tells me when I keep my eyes on Jesus it will motivate me to throw off encumbrances or false foci and grow in my endurance.
The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:12-14, also talks about three aspects of focus. First, do not focus on the past. There is no benefit from hanging out there or nosing around the memories. Forget it and move forward.
Paul’s second directive is to look to what is ahead. Forward vision helps me focus by asking questions. Where am I headed? How will I get there? What should I prepare for?
Interestingly, both the writer of Hebrews and Paul in Philippians emphasize the idea of endurance, or as Paul says in his third point, press on to complete the race. God must have put these words in my path twice because it is not my favorite character quality to work on.
Thirty-one days in, I am working to apply these insights in Focus 2021:
1. Ask God to heighten my awareness to sin, especially my favorite ones. Then shorten the time I take to repent. Or better yet, turn away before there is a need to repent. This is one way to throw off what bogs me down.
2. Repentance involves more than confession. It leads me to turn away from dwelling on my failure, whether in the past minutes, hours, or years. Instead, it turns my gaze or refocuses me on what is ahead.
3. Press On. This process of properly setting my focus takes work. It doesn’t come naturally. To quote the Apostle Paul again, “That which I would not, that do I do” (Romans 7:19). I have to fight my sinful desires. I must exercise courage and grit to do what I know is right, even when I’d rather not. That is endurance.
4. Keep my eyes on Jesus. Focusing on Jesus will embolden me to live out the three previous steps. And the more I keep my eyes consistently on Jesus, the clearer I will focus on what He has ahead for me.
Lots of lessons in this first month. I can hardly wait to see what I learn in the future about focus. What has God been teaching you? I love reading your comments, emails, and stories.