It is 34 degrees today. That in itself is noteworthy, because typical temperatures in this part of Wisconsin for February are more like 15 degrees. But that’s not the real reason that I had to look twice at the thermometer. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten into a habit of glancing out the window to check the temperature without making sure it registers in my brain at all. I’ll look out and turn away, only to think “What is the temperature? Did I even see the thermometer?” I do it all the time. Sometimes I do the same thing when I look at the clock. (I know, how can you look at a clock and not see what time it is?)
What concerns me is that I’m finding myself paying less and less attention to other things that are important, like when my mom tells me something she wants me to do (or even something I need to change in my life!). Often it goes in one ear and out the other, not making any impression on me. Admittedly that’s sometimes because I don’t want to change. But more often than not, I simply allow my mind to wander, to go somewhere else. I’m sure I can listen while planning my next task, until Mom finishes and I have no idea what she just said!
This kind of mindset — thinking I can do “everything” at once and don’t have to really focus on things — can even spill into my spiritual life. Actually, that’s the area in which it happens the most easily. I can read the Bible in the morning, and by the time the breakfast dishes are washed I don’t remember any verse that stood out to me. I’m pretty sure there was something I wanted to think about, but I was mentally planning my day (or an article, or a class for my sibling, or a conversation, or…). And the Bible is God’s words to me! That is the primary way He speaks to me! And I can’t remember what He said.
Scary, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s why James compares people who hear God’s word (like me) and don’t do it (it’s hard to obey if you don’t remember what you heard!) to “a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24) I can attest to the truth of that verse. When I read God’s word, I see my sins and the things I need to change. But when I’m not paying attention, I quickly forget those things in the busyness of the day. James continues, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:25, emphasis mine.)
I need to focus more on the issue, problem, task, or Scripture at hand. I need to put aside all the distractions that vie for my attention and keep my mind on what is currently needed, be it instruction from my mom, a question from my little brother, or reading Deuteronomy 28. Only by paying attention to one thing at a time will I truly be able to make progress in any area. And I sure would like to make progress — going forward, instead of around in circles!