Focusing

I walk in my neighborhood as many days a week as I can. It’s a great neighborhood for it; flat road, a lot of little hills, and a two major ones make for a very good workout. Those hills are my nemesis. I have to head toward them and tackle them first, or I will avoid them completely. As I approach them, I have to talk myself up, focus and press on.

When I walk, I always listen to my iPod and wear a baseball hat. The other day, however, I decided to try an experiment. I went without the iPod or hat — I thought it would be good to just listen to nature and be completely quiet. My walk that day was horrible. I was very distracted. I couldn’t concentrate and couldn’t keep a steady pace. I basically strolled the whole time, and couldn’t decide which path to take or which direction to go. All I kept thinking about was how much time was left before I could go home. I decided to forgo that big hill. I just didn’t have the heart or motivation to do it.

The next day I decided to go with just my iPod, but still no hat. That was better — the music helped me keep a steady pace, pick it up, or slow it down when need be. But I still wasn’t very focused. I kept looking all around me, paying more attention to the houses, cars and lawns than my walk. And although I did take the biggest hill, I kept looking up to see how much further I had to go, and it seemed to go on forever. And it seemed steeper. It actually took longer to get up the hill than normal.

After this little experiment, I realized something. I realized that I was sort of like a horse — that I needed blinders on to what was around me so that I could focus on the task at hand. Mind you, at first I was embarrassed about this, and felt like maybe I was just an adult ADHD candidate who never got diagnosed. But the more I thought about it, I realized that my accessories for my walk are actually okay, and are really a biblical metaphor for our Christian walk, not just our physical walk.

In the book of Joshua, God tells him to keep his hat on, listen to his iPod, and focus on the hill in front of him: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you may go” (1:7).

It’s like God’s saying, “Joshua. Gear up. Listen to your music, my word. And keep your hat on, it will keep you focused and not distracted. If you do that, you can easily take this mountain.”

And remember when Peter walked on water, ever so briefly? He started walking…he was walking on water! But he didn’t keep his hat on. He stopped listening to the music of Jesus’ words. Instead, he “saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matt 14:30). Instead of focusing, he looked up, down and all around got scared. I wonder what would’ve happened if he had kept focused on Jesus? I wonder how long he and Jesus would’ve stood there on that water, waves splashing on their toes, chattin’ it up? I wonder what kind of laughs they would’ve had together…fish jumping all around them. What it would have felt like to be standing upright and unwavering, but feeling nothing under your feet? I wonder if any of the other guys would have taken a step out of the boat too, encouraged by their friend Peter’s success and uplifted by his faith. Can you imagine if all of them had done it, too — the big party on the lake they would’ve had? Celebrating the blessing of literally walking through a lesson on faith with Jesus himself.

The thing about wearing my hat while I’m walking and taking that hill is that I’m only looking at the step right in front of me. I can’t see the end. With my hat on, my eyes are kept from looking at the top, from seeing how much further there is to go, and deciding to stop along the way. I just walk on, because I can handle the step I’m on right this second. Then when I get to the top, I’ll look down and see that the journey really wasn’t as hard as I had anticipated it would be. I just press on, keeping up with the rhythm of His words.

“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)

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