Like clockwork, when I take my dog, Ossie, out to do his business, he has to run through the checklist of dealing with every single distraction that comes his way … the sounds of distant sirens, dog’s barking, hawk’s screeching, leaves rustling, frog’s croaking, cars on the road, neighborhood voices, etc … the sights of birds in the yard, cats sitting on our patio, limbs swaying in the wind, random pinecones, water flowing in the ditch, etc … the smells of other animals who’ve walked through the yard … the feel of wet grass, sweet gum balls, stray limbs, branches, or vines, etc. All I want him to do is go potty, but all he wants to do is worry about everything else. Even after sitting inside for hours, obviously needing to relieve himself, he gets overwhelmed and consumed with other things and is so easily diverted from the purpose of our trip outside.
Sounds a lot like me when I’m trying to focus on Jesus! I know my need, I know I’ve been occupied with other things for a while and desperately need to taste of Him, I know there are potential distractions and say “nothing will get in my way this time,” I know my spiritual health depends on my spending intimate time with Him, but I still get sidetracked and diverted from my purpose by even the slightest thing. “I forgot to send that email … I need to get the clothes out of the dryer … when is that basketball game coming on tonight? … I really need to work on that lesson … I wonder how my friend’s son is doing? … hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow … I think my clothes smell like the restaurant … I should probably be reading my Bible and praying … I can’t remember what I did with that receipt … that’s an interesting bird … I need to start exercising more … I can’t believe Anita’s co-worker said that … hope Seth remembers to take the trash can to the street today … yeah, I should be reading the Bible and praying right now … I think this might be a good sermon topic one day … what was that noise? … why do kids leave empty bowls and cups around the house? … that picture on the wall is crooked … wow, look at the time, I need to go or else I’ll be late … I’ll read the Bible and spend time with the Lord later on.” I really do act like my dog.
One of the first things we deal with in our Evangelize Today training is how to deal with all the background noise of life. And while I’m beginning to get a little recognition and a few pats on the back for having some success in the world of evangelism, I know my greatest struggle is still just being able to enjoy intimacy with Christ. In our evangelism training we say our goal is to “listen to hear” the unbeliever, but how effectively can I listen to and hear them when I have such a hard time hearing the Lord and resting in the joyful confidence of Him hearing and intimately knowing me?
There just aren’t any secret shortcuts that bypass the importance and need of spending time alone with the Lord. But there’s no need to live in fear or guilt. First, thank the Lord for bringing certain things to your mind (friends, needs, duties, responsibilities, projects, events, etc.) and acknowledge that it is a work of the Holy Spirit. He is prompting you to trust Him more, to acknowledge that all the matters of life (large or small, public or private, significant or seemingly meaningless, purposeful or random) are under His providential guiding hand. Sure, we absolutely need times when we should be very intentional and focused with our prayers, but don’t neglect to be thankful for those times when the Lord is taking you on what seems like a random journey. And secondly, find ways and times to read God’s Word and delight in the Gospel. The more you taste of it, the more you’ll desire it. And like high quality headphones, the Gospel will cancel out most of the background noise of life that hinders our focus on Him.