Tuesday, October 31, 2006

focus

Off and on I struggle with focus to the point that I realize it is an issue I must deal with. I think here of focus as in faith, and what my mind is fixed on. And then from that, my heart, and all I am, as much as possible, by the Spirit and the Word in the Community of Jesus.

I am reminded of what I heard Richard Wurmbrand say years ago. Something like: "You will regret bitterly the weaknesses you have, that you encounter in your ministry." (a paraphrase, keeping the thought I remember). I often am going along fine. But before preaching or when doing a "ministry" activity, I am sorely tempted to focus on something that is a fear to me. That in reality is probably a lie, in and of itself. But in so doing, I find myself losing my focus on the Lord and lose out on the simplicity of the walk with him.

This is like Peter on the water. First he comes (evidently, especially knowing him from the gospels) unhesitatingly at Jesus' bidding, toward Jesus on the water! But then he is tempted to consider "reality". In so doing he loses his focus of faith. No longer is he looking at Jesus, but instead at the waves, whipped up by the wind on the water. Peter is sinking! Of course, in answer to his cry the Lord's hand is there to save him.

I remember in the past going up on a rope's course. It was very high (can't remember just how high, maybe 30 feet), especially for me, as I have a fear of heights. Just to get to the top for me was good. But being there, I was terrified. In fear I couldn't even go through the first rope without falling (of course one is kept safe and simply ends up hanging). And when I got to the other end, all I wanted to do was immediately climb down, which I did.

The next year I determined to do better. I was not going to look down, as I had my first time. I expressed my determination to do well, and not to be afraid this time, at which someone laughed (understandably so, given my other time on it).

I climbed to the top. Never once looked down. Did the entire ropes course. And never once fell! Though some of it was tricky. In all of that, I never lost focus. If I had slipped, that would have been a test of whether or not I would keep focus on what I had to do next. Though certainly exhilerating, and intense, I had avoided the paralyzing fear that comes with the loss of proper focus.

And so it is in our life in God. When danger comes our way, and seems to be in our face, we need to keep the faith. Fixing our eyes, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, on Jesus. Both in the personal-relational way. And in the way of the disciple, learning from our Mentor. From his life as recorded for us in the gospels. And from the Spirit teaching us. And all of this both in our aloneness, and especially in the community of Jesus.

How do we apply this focus? This is where we need to be in Scripture. There are various things we'll have to do. Including, perhaps, like Paul, glorying in our own weakness, because of "the thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan" that may trouble us. Because we know God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. Indeed, a most hard lesson to learn. Simply learning to keep our eyes, in faith on the faithful One: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How about you? What have you learned about the focus of faith? What keeps you on track? Or helps you get back on track?

4 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

It generally comes down to reading my bible... there, I find God's tenderness and comfort, even if I am feeling like Isaiah "in the year that King Uzziah died" (in times of great unpredictability and sorrow).

An aside on the fear thing, now... when I speak, I focus on the fear, in the sense that I take it and weave it into my talk in confession or simple admission. As you have done here, I believe this brings others warmly to our sides, as they feel we have come to theirs. And the honesty helps us both rediscover the possibility of focus on Jesus.

Erika Carney Haub said...

I feel like for me my community is the richest grace God gives me in this area. I need them for the scriptures to really find their significance so often. Sitting alone in my room, a scripture passge can feel so believable and winsome, yet when brought to bear on actual relationships and circumstances, that is where it's truth becomes real (with all of the rough edges and difficulties of belief).
To put it another way, without my community, my faith often becomes a reflection of me and not a reflection of God and those he loves. So when I think about focus, I think about the grace-bearers around me who God uses consistently to correct and restore and redirect.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L.,

I can id with your thought on reading Scripture. Your thought on sharing your fears with your audience is good. But the kind of fear I speak of is more a paralyzing one, that for me, I've learned over the years usually doesn't not help in that context for me to confess. It does help before the Lord. Sometimes before another or others. Though often, in my case, I expected things from them, or through them that often didn't come- it seems. I think the problem was somehow with me, not with them.

I think part of focusing on Christ is to do so as part of his body, not just as one individual to ourselves. Both have their place, but body life, and a sense of togetherness in it I've come to see as more and more important, over the years (and especially the last several years). Maybe involvement together makes improved focus on the Lord more and more a natural part of who I am becoming. We individually must focus, but I think not in isolation.

Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

Erika,

So well put, and getting exactly at what I was just trying to say.

God sees us as part of Christ's body, individually yet also together as one unit. So we need to see ourselves more and more in that same way.

So we're learning to focus on the Lord through his body. He chooses to use us to help each other do that. Interesting. And you expressed it well.

Thanks.