I read a quote recently that has since stuck with me, and it went something like this:
"What distracts you will ultimately define you."
When I say this stuck with me, I mean that it hit me like a bag of bricks in the face.
I have been incredibly distracted lately. Not by anything particularly “bad” or “evil.” Actually, by something that has potential to be a really good thing. A gift, maybe. But the distractedness has led to selfishness. To self-protection. To overthinking. To white-knuckling the situation. To anxiety. I have failed to be present. The people around me have noticed. I have noticed. I have avoided the issue. I’ve continued to do what I want. I’ve continued to be controlled by my desire. To be fixated on it.
The funny thing is, when we’re distracted, we’re also intently focused. On the distraction.
Makes sense, right? Life is a paradox, people.
I've been so focused on doing what I want, on making it happen, on making it work, on figuring it out, on feeling good, that I have actually wasted time. Let the here and now slip away. Lost touch with reality. Been focused on the not-quite-right. On being comfortable. On being loved and affirmed and enough. On being told I am these things by other humans. On finally being fulfilled by the thing I think I need.
Yikes. How did I get back to this place so quickly? Did I not just pack up and move my life halfway across the country five months ago? Did I not learn this lesson the first two months I was here? Didn’t I finally realize that contentment is not found in the circumstantial, but in the eternal?
I am not going to say that I thought I would find contentment when I moved here, that I was surprised when I found myself in a deep state of discontent upon my arrival. I honestly didn't know what I would find here. I didn't run away from or toward anything in particular. I followed a nudge. I didn’t have many expectations (a miracle, if you know me).
But the last couple of months, contentment is about all I've been fixated on. And apparently I refuse to believe it’s found in the present moment. Expectations for the future are all I’ve had. I have been convinced that contentment is found in the next good thing. The next fix. The next step. The next thing to look forward to. The perfectly wrapped gift of my five-year plan, presented to me on a silver platter. The person who will finally tell me I’m enough.
Have you ever been so caught up in dreaming that you forget how to really dream?
Let me explain.
I have dreams. I have desires. I was built for adventure; I thrive on newness.
Also, I want to know what the plan is and what I need to do to get there. I want a detailed and categorized list. I actually don't really want adventure most of the time. I just want things to go my way. That's how I'm wired. I love spontaneity but what I love even more is knowing the outcome.
Call me Type-A.
However it manifests itself, at the core, my problem is this: I'm constantly looking for a better reality than the one I'm living in right now.
And it's exhausting.
Several weeks ago, worshipping alongside fellow believers on a Sunday morning, a thought just hit me. Let's call it an intersecting thought, a Holy Spirit thought.
God's goodness doesn't get "gooder" than what he did in Jesus.
That's right, the Holy Spirit doesn't always use proper grammar, and neither do I.
I immediately wrote this thought down in my designated write-about-this-later note on my phone (it's a thing) and made a mental note to dwell on it later. It was such a clear and potent and sharp arrow-of-truth to the heart.
Guess what? I haven’t thought about it since that day.
So I’m thinking about it now. Think about it with me.
It does not get better than Jesus.
As in, nothing. Nothing gets better than Jesus. No person, no love, no reality, no life, no story.
We know this. We've been told since we were small, or since whenever we first heard of him.
But we forget, don’t we?
Or - humor me for a second - is our problem not so much that we are forgetful, but that we don't actually believe it's true?
What happens when I am distracted, when I believe that something (or someone, or some place, etc.) gets better than Jesus?
What happens is this: Those distractions become expectations, those expectations go unmet, and disappointment eventually crushes me.
This repeated disappointment is enough to make me fearful. To keep me from trusting myself or others. To prevent me from taking unnecessary risks. To stop me from pouring grace and love out to others.
If I’m completely honest, it’s usually the seemingly innocent distractions that become idols - things I look to for meaning and worth and joy.
But what happens when I actually believe that Jesus is the best? That he is enough to satisfy all my longing, all my neediness, all my searching?
Honestly, the outcome is just as scary, because it's just as unknown. The status quo is much, much more comfortable.
What if I could actually be enough? What if, without our distractions as a safety net, I could be totally complete in Jesus? What if I don't have to live out of fear because even if things don't turn out the way I hope they will, I still have him at the end of the day?
It would change everything.
Rather than being distracted by what we think we need, we would be captivated by our true purpose - “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
Instead of being focused on what we do not have or what could happen, we would be distracted by the beauty of our Savior and what his presence brings to our lives.
In the place of disappointment when things don’t go how we hoped, we could live with a palms-up attitude, forgetting what lies behind and running full-speed into eternity.
No longer operating out of fear and timidity, we could live out of faith, taking risks, taking steps toward people no matter the cost, trusting that God’s goodness is still just as good in our pain as in our joy.
So we must press forward, asking Jesus to be our greatest distraction. Asking him to rewrite the scripts in our heads, the ones telling us that we must operate out of self-protection and self-service.
Asking him to be what our minds turn to in uncertainty, rather than the unreliable and shallow strength of our own earthly wisdom or others’ opinions.
Asking him to help us continue to remind us daily that the work that his grace has promised to complete is not inhibited, that it does not come to a screeching halt when we are unfaithful.
Asking him to not just be our focus, but to be our “goodest” distraction when lesser things take over our line of vision.
Because it just doesn't get better than him.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Philippians 3:12-16)