There’s a skill I’m constantly learning to improve. But the more I try, the more I realize just how bad I am at it. This, in turn, convinces me as to its importance and the advantage it brings if I can only get somewhat good at it.
That ability is to be able focus, to block out distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. I’m almost convinced it’s a modern-day superpower.
You already knew that the number one culprit for this is the smartphone. A study last November said that Americans are looking at their phones an average of 52 times a day, more than ever before. Forty percent of us admit we look at them too much. Sixty percent of 18-34-year-olds say they’re hooked to the gadgets.
But before you consider this merely a rant about the invasion of technology (though it is a little bit of that), we all need to think of something else. As far as I know, no one is being forced to live in the perpetual glow of blue light emanating up to our faces as the world passes by. It’s our choice. And while my mom – who loves her phone and checking Facebook – can’t hold a candle to my teenage daughter’s ability to be completely unaware of her surroundings, senior adults are becoming more inclined to welcome technology.
Do this the next time you’re in line at the grocery store, amusement park … anywhere that people around you have more than two seconds of spare time. This includes in the car while cruising through a construction zone. Notice how many look at their phones rather than endure seconds of down time.
In Scripture we see examples of the importance of maintaining our focus. The two I think of first have to do with storms. In Mark 4:35-39, Jesus calms the sea. In Matthew 14:22-33, he rescues Peter after the disciple sinks into the waves.
In both of those examples the onlookers thought Jesus was the obtuse one, completely missing what was going on. Before He calmed the sea, the disciples were incredulous as to Jesus sleeping through a horrifying storm. In the second passage, they thought He wasn’t there at all. A ghost, or so they thought, walked to them on the waves. Peter stepped off the boat with a focus the others couldn’t muster, but even he wasn’t able to maintain it for the storm around him.
If you’re like our family, the start of the school year brings an entirely new calendar and day-to-day pace. My wife is back to teaching and everything that entails. We have four kids in school – one of them a senior doing senior things with the others eating up the hours with football, cheerleading, and soccer. Finding one night a week, just one, where we’re all at the dinner table together can be a challenge.
Thoughts like that make me realize the importance of making the most of our days. Have conversations with the people close to you. Read one of the books from that pile on the table. Get up early while the house is quiet and spend the first moments of the day in the Bible and prayer.
The good thing about working on this skill is there is always – and I mean, always – a chance to work at it. When I’m cognizant of my need to focus, I tend to gravitate toward the things worthy of my focus. It helps me clear away the chatter and get to what I’m going to cherish most in the years to come. If, Lord willing, I live a long life on this earth I hope when I’m 80 I’m not still stewing over that tweet @bigmouthrob made about the Tide back in ’19.
So today, tomorrow, and in the days to come I’m going to try and take a look around rather than down at the electronic rectangle taking over our lives. As more of us do it, I pray it doesn’t become so much a superpower anymore.