November 6: Focus

Abby gets straight A’s, but wants to be good at playing the piano. Ben is an incredibly talented pianist, but wants to have a big group of friends. Caleb has a big group of friends, but wishes he was good at basketball. Derek is the star basketball player at his high school, but wishes he could get straight A’s, or at least one A.

Eric lives within 20 minutes of his family, but wants to move to South Africa. Fred lives in South Africa, but wants to be trained to be a nurse in Australia. Gina is a nurse in Australia, but has always dreamed of being a missionary in Ghana. Hannah is a missionary in Ghana, but wishes she were only 20 minutes away from her family.

Jennifer has a brand new ipad, but wants a dog. Kelly has a dog but wants a new car. Luke has a new car but wants a wife and children. Matt has a wife and children, but wants a new ipad.

We always want what other people have: skills, opportunities, material things, spiritual gifts, personality traits, etc. As humans it’s easy for us to look at other people’s lives and see differences from our own. The differences, if they are desired, can grab our attention away from Jesus. If we are enticed by what we do not have, then our focus shifts to that desire, or to the person who has what we desire. We can then become so obsessed with the blessings of other people that we don’t see our own blessings-the blessings that in the end, someone further down the desire chain is bringing to a full circle.

I’ve been thinking about this cycle a lot lately- especially in my daily battle for content-ness. My main challenge has not been a comparison of blessings between myself and other people, but between my present self and my future self. I am over half way through my time in Thailand and I’m so excited to be home with my family and friends! I have been finding it hard not to daydream about the joys in my near future- an airport reunion, Christmas, TCX, just relaxing and watching football… AH! These things are going to be great. I also know that when I do get back, I’m going to have a battle with my present self and my past self. I’m going to want to be back here doing what I’m doing right now. I am battling my very own cycle of desires.

Now don’t get me wrong- having desires and dreams for our lives are good things! It’s when they become our only focus that they begin to hinder our God-given joy. It’s like if I were to go on a walk and focus only on the stop sign at the end of the road. If I do this, then I’m going to miss all of the colors and life around me as I walk. Although it’s great to have a focal point in the future (reunions, conferences, graduation, missions, marriage, etc.), it would be a shame to have missed everything else along the way. You know what I mean? So I have been checking myself a lot lately because I know that God has incredible, daily joys for me right now. I am blessed to work at an incredible ministry that I am personally passionate about. Every morning I spend 3 hours playing with toddlers and babies! Two afternoons a week I am teaching a worship dance class to the women. I have the opportunity to do outreach to women who are still working in the sex industry. Many times the women say they have to work to live, but we (the ministry) get to offer them an alternative. I have found a favorite spot in Bangkok where I can have a taste of home (homemade cupcakes, chicken pot pies, chai tea lattes…) and every Wednesday afternoon I can choose to meet with people who are working in all different ministries around Bangkok to pray as one, unified, body of believers. I have wifi at my apartment, a laptop and an iPhone that make keeping in contact with the people I love as easy as pushing send. I have a list of about a million other blessings and joys that are true of my life right now. And as long as I focus on Jesus, I can clearly see all of them.

I challenge you to focus on Jesus. Then look at your desires, your dreams, and your blessings and sort out where and why your attention is where it is.

You may find that you’re in a battle with yourself- past, present, future, or any combination.

You may find that the things you think you desire are just the manifestations of jealousy in your heart.

You may find freedom in knowing that material things are worth nothing, but eternity is worth everything.

You may find that the blessings you do have could be used in incredible ways for the Kingdom.

You may find comfort that you are always exactly where God wants you to be according to His perfect will.

You may find that you’ve been walking through life staring at a stop sign, and you’re missing the blessings all around you right now.

You may find something unexpected, so…just look! Focus, and then look.

-E

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