Thursday, September 24, 2020

Life Lessons from Love Bugs

The other day I was driving to work when a couple lovebugs hit my windshield with a splat. By "couple," of course I mean a dozen as it's Florida in September where lovebugs swarm in plague-like dark clouds, literally proliferating as they fly. I turned on my wipers in an effort to clear the mess, but managed to just kind of smear the bug guts in a sweeping arc across my line of vision. 

As I drove, my eyes were pulled back to the splattered remains of the bugs. I thought to myself - it would really suck if I got in an accident because I was focused on the smudge adorning my windshield instead of focusing on the stretch of highway before me. I forced my eyes back to the road, paying attention to the traffic, lights, and pedestrians. Before long, my gaze was once again drawn to the spatter on my window. I reprimanded myself. "Seriously, Dawn. Stop concentrating on the splotch of bug guts and shift your focus a few yards ahead." This happened a couple more times until I pulled into the parking lot at work. Each time my eyes shifted, it only lasted a second, a brief moment. It was hardly noticeable at all; I didn't even realize I was doing it.

And it made me think.

How often do we look ahead, pointed in the right direction, traveling along the correct path, and yet our focus is pulled just slightly away from where it should be? We're moving forward, all seems well, and yet we can't help focusing on something just slightly out of our line of vision. Maybe it's something that happened in the past; some blight in our history that we just can't seem to escape. Or maybe our focus shifts ever-so-slightly to the left. Or the right. Or somewhere in the periphery. We're not off-track per se. But something has pulled our attention away and we aren't focused exactly where we should be. It doesn't seem like a big deal at first, but the danger is that those momentary diversions can eventually pull us away from our destination, our purpose.

It happens to all of us. But how do we keep our attention where it should be even in the midst of endless distractions? If you read the first paragraph, you'll have seen that I'm hardly an expert as my attention shifts easily.

That could also say -
"I have so much to do!"
"Oooo look! Netflix!"

Or -
"I am SO over dating!"
"Oooo look! A cute guy!"

So although I'm clearly no expert, here are my ideas for staying focused.

1.  Determine your priorities. It's hard to stay focused on what's important to you if you don't know what's important to you. Unless you have a clear idea of what you want to focus on, your attention will be easily led in ways that won’t get you where you want to be. 

2.  Start the day with that priority. If your priority is to focus on God, begin your day with prayer. If it's to accomplish some goal (for example, weight loss) start your day by telling yourself you can and will succeed. Read a success story, look over the past weeks of weight loss and remind yourself that you're doing well, look at a "before" picture and applaud your success thus far.

3.  Have a plan.  

Again, I'll use the weight-loss example since this is something I've struggled with for a good 35 years. If you don't have a plan, you're doomed to fail even before you start. Plan out your menu, have healthy food on hand, carve out time to exercise. (I'm good with the giving of the advice, but notsomuch with the following of the advice.)

4.  Know that at times you'll lose focus on the big picture. It happens. When you find yourself looking at the messy bug guts of life, just shift your focus back where it belongs. And extend yourself some grace because we're all human. Just don't let your concentration veer completely off course or you could crash and burn.

Psalm 101:3 ESV
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.

Psalm 119:37 ESV
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Proverbs 4:25 ESV
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.

Philippians 3:14 ESV
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 25:15 ESV
My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Job 31:7 ESV
If my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands,

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