Everything in me and around me seems to be dead against focused attention. As soon as I sit down to finally focus on the task at hand, the instant pot beeps, begging for my attention. The laundry buzzes, beckoning me to fold. As soon as I finally sit down to read me to my littlest fella or get outside to kick the soccer ball with my older fellas, I see trash cans that need to be taken out, plants that need to be watered, and a flat tire that needs to be filled.
This is not to mention the push through news notifications, the ticker on the bottom of the screen, or the constantly-changing calendars I manage. On the outside, my life is scattered, but on the inside my heart is equally scattered, pulled in different directions by competing desires. I find myself longing to pray with David in Psalm 86, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
Like many of you, I often ask the Lord to give me a word or phrase at the turn of the new year. Like many of you, I also tend to forget that word or phrase after a month of living in the tyranny of the urgent. As such, I hesitate to even pick a word, but this year I feel like the Lord picked one for me: Focus.
Many people will be talking about focus in the coming weeks: Focus on your goal, focus on caring for yourself, focus on the right priorities, focus on setting those habits. But I just want to focus period. To be focused where God has me in each moment, unified in heart rather than divided and distracted. Not feeling guilty about the twenty things I am not currently doing or the the forty other needs I should be meeting, but rather being more fully free and focused on where I actually am.
Beams of Attention
A few month back, I read an old tattered book by Keith Greene, and one little nugget contained therein planted itself in my soul. Greene likened his focused attention as a beam or spotlight, as seen below.
“It is as our attention were a powerful spotlight, the beam of which God lets us direct. We can shine the beam off into the past or future or into the eyes of the people around us in the present…I began to see that agape love rides down the beam of our attention into people’s hearts.”
It is a challenging thought to think about agape love sliding down the beams of our attention. We live in a culture largely known for its short attention spans, and we house hearts whose attention beams tends to continually reorient around self. As such, it seems that much agape love that could be sliding from the Father of lights down the beams of our attention to a desperately needy world never arrives.
Focusing Scattered Beams
If focused attention is beam, my attention is more like a spewing geyser. When my older children are wanting to show me their latest invention, I find myself present physically but mentally-scattered. When my husband is seeking to share about his day, I find myself thinking of the remainder of the to-do list I might be able to knock out later that evening. I have found myself begging the Lord who is unified in His purposes and His affections to make me more like Him.
Rather than be utterly overwhelmed by the sheer number of women at our Church, I am asking the Lord to give me a few women upon whom I might focus my attention beam this season.
At home, I find myself scanning a yard that needs some TLC, a pile of laundry and a pathetic pantry. When I catch the beams of my attention dissipating into a spectrum of to-do lists, I have been asking the Lord to let my beam of attention linger a little longer on the hearts in our home rather than the domestic duties.
But more than anything, I have been found myself wondering at the multi-faceted, multi-colored, constantly radiating beams of agape attention that God directs at me. That the God who created the sun and lightwaves and the spectrum of visible and invisible light would set His affection on anyone is shocking. That He would set it upon me, one who constantly fritters my attention on self and shimmery fool’s gold, is even more shocking.
The Beams of the Father
When I read through the Gospels, I see a Christ who consistently focused the beams of agape love that He received constantly on whomever was set before Him. A poor widow. A wealthy, woeful centurion. A pack of crazy kids. A crowd of hungry paupers. A suspect tax collector. Christ was able to radiate what He received by consistently relying upon the approval of His heavenly Father. More than the strange star that had indicated his birth beamed, the beams of God’s love perpetually warmed the Son.
Yet, in those painful hours on that horrible hill, the beam of favor turned away from Him. All was darkness, within and without, to the end that the beams of God’s favor might be set once again on those who would call upon Him.
The spotlight that the Son deserves has been turned upon those who look up to Him for deliverance. The children of light, those who receive the steady spotlight of the Father, are invited to focus the light they have received into the lives of those still in darkness.
May we know the fullness of the beams of His favor towards us. May the beams of our attention bring Him glory this season. Amen.