During a stroll between morning meetings, I ducked into my favorite building on the grounds of the Mount Hermon Conference Center. The A-framed chapel ranks high on my list of favorite places to visit.
With each foot-lift on the redwood steps, the tightness in my shoulders eased.
A time-worn wooden pew welcomed me. As I settled against a corner at the end of the pew, my breathing slowed and my spirit quieted.
The chapel provided a perfect place for pondering and praising. The perfect place for shifting my heart away from niggling details and temporal concerns, to return my attention to the Divine and the eternal.
Seated in solitude, I gazed from the sheaves of golden wheat pictured in the stained glass to the evergreen-draped redwoods towering outside the window. Massive reminders of my Father’s faithfulness.
When my attention settled on the cross, praise to my Savior–my Salvation, my sustenance, and my strength–poured from my lips.
Then. I. Looked. Down.
Not at the water beneath my feet like Peter did, but at my lap, where a side seam on my skirt ran over my knees.
I’d like to say I seamlessly raised my gaze to the cross. That ignoring the trivial distraction, I snapped my thoughts back to the One I love. That I, without hesitation, resumed my adoration of Him.
I’m afraid not.
Instead, I chased skirt-seam rabbits down a trail of sidetracking questions. How long had my skirt been twisted? All morning? In the nine o’clock meeting? Why hadn’t anyone told me?
Unable to answer my own niggling questions, I finally stood and twisted the seam back into place.
How is it that I can be so easily distracted by the external in such a heavenward-inspiring setting as the historic chapel?
I set out, no matter what inconsequential distractions come my way, to keep my focus centered on God. On praising Him. Listening for His still small voice. Following His lead. But I struggle with the decoy of distractions.
Perhaps you, too, grapple with disruptions.
Listen to what Paul wrote in Romans 7:15. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
The Apostle Paul admits his kindred-spirit tendencies. He wrestled with inward and outward distractions, too.
We’re not alone, sisters.
At times, trivial concerns and external appearances take our eyes off of the One we love.
If allowed, daily details will set up camp in our thoughts, steal our attention, and rob us of peace and joy.If allowed, daily details will steal our attention, and rob us of peace and joy. Click To Tweet
It might be something someone said, did or didn’t do that distracts us. A malfunctioning dishwasher. A howling dog. A daunting decision begging to be made. A rocky relationship. A loss. We could add to the list all day long, right?
If you’re like me (and Paul), you will look away from your good intentions and be distracted by the trivial.
Sometimes, more than others, our thoughts and affections easily derail from dwelling in God’s presence.Sometimes our thoughts and affections are easily derailed from dwelling in God’s presence. Click To Tweet
But we can become distracted without being defeated. Here are five tips that help me remain focused or restore my focus.
• Remember: distractions happen. Watch for those shifts in your focus.
• Recognize the emotional derailment when distraction happens.
• Tend to a distraction that requires your immediate attention.
• Be intentional about not letting the distraction(s) rule your heart.
• Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Again, and again, if necessary.
Settled back on the pew, I lifted my gaze to the cross, now draped in light and shadows.
Shifting my attention, I said, “That just happened didn’t it, Lord? Please forgive me. I’m back. Thank you for being here–knowing and patient, waiting and ready to pick up where I left off.”
What kinds of distractions do you struggle with most?
What works best for you when you sense a distraction getting the best of you?
Click here to read Sarah Forgrave’s guest post, 5 Easy Ways to Stay Focused While You Pray.