I’ve been thinking a lot about distractions as I follow the varied trails of temptation that wander through C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Distraction is a big theme in this classic. I’m trying to teach myself to notice my own hiccupping thoughts, squibbling this way and darting that way, like sand crabs at low tide. It turns out that I preach to myself as much, or even more, than I do to you. I am often deeply impacted by what God puts on my plate before it is dished out on a Sunday morning. Truth is, I see myself in the Screwtape letters. I have a new, and not very flattering, awareness of just how highly distractible I am.
I can have a perfectly good plan to complete this project or that sermon in a timely fashion. Then I’ll look at my email and see that Cokesbury has study books I want to preview, and the Skit Guys have new videos (with a 20% off coupon) that I need to check out, my friend Theresa has sent me a morning chuckle email which is both funny and adorable, and the Sifter has incredible 4k time lapses of dust storms in Arizona…well, you get the picture. We all have our own versions of “squirrel!” right? (by the way, the Arizona dust storm video is awesome!) What to do? I’m grateful for the unexpected gift of “unsubscribe” suggested to me by a parishioner. It has made my email life much more manageable. How did I not know about this?? I now unsubscribe with great regularity, when it comes to unwanted email. It’s made a huge difference in the quality of, and quantity in, my inbox!
Endless labyrinths of wandering thoughts are a more difficult problem, until I remember – unsubscribe! Surely God has much better plans for my time than searching Amazon for shirts, or checking out Pixabay’s cute kittens. The problem for me, and perhaps for some of you, is that we’ve forgotten how to be in the moment we’re in. Media, of all sizes and shapes, entice us into worlds that glue us to the past, or thrust us into an imagined (but never actual) future. We’re so used to to the distractions, we barely notice the world at our fingertips. My summer of hiking, and the spectacular worlds I’ve discovered beyond freeways and malls, has particularly reminded me that God is present always and everywhere. But unless I’m equally present, the breathtaking vistas might as well be sagging cardboard boxes.
Being in the moment is a gift that’s always available, costs not a penny, and is perfectly in season. Give it a try. See if you can be present for three minutes. When you conquer that, try five minutes. Then seven minutes. Stick with it and you’ll change your world, because you’ll finally see the world. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing!