Focus. . . . It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a little girl. I always wanted to do my best and I never wanted to disappoint anyone. I never intended to play the drums on my desk with my scissors and pencil while my second grade teacher was speaking. I certainly came back to my senses when she yelled out my full name and sent me to the corner in front of all the class. As I stood in the corner crying, and writing ugly things about my teacher on the chalkboard where no one could see, I couldn’t understand why she had humiliated me in front of the entire class and put me in the corner. I had been in my own little world and didn’t realize it. I don’t even remember what I was daydreaming about that day, but I do know I wasn’t focused on what she was trying to teach us.
As an adult, I would find it difficult to get the kids to school and me to work on time, even though I’m an early riser. It was because I would get sidetracked from my morning routine by distractions like cleaning out the drawers while trying to find a pair of socks for one of my children or cleaning out the fridge while making lunches. They seemed like admirable and necessary tasks, just not the tasks I needed to be focused on to get us all where we needed to be each morning. It was not a shock when a therapist diagnosed me with ADD. The struggle to focus has been real and when there is lack of focus, things can get overwhelming.
My mom always knew how to make sure she had our attention when she perceived that we were not focusing on what she was saying. She would sternly say, “Look at my face!” We knew, right then, that we better be paying attention to what she said next or we would certainly miss something important and get in trouble. I was thinking about those four words this morning as I was walking on the treadmill and listening to worship. In my mind, I was reliving moments from the week and talking to the Lord about them. It’s been a bad week to be honest. Let me tell you about one of those moments . . . .
Last Sunday, one of our pastors preached about being led by the Spirit and not led by the flesh. However, this week, my flesh had been leading, for sure. I could truthfully blame too much stress or hormones or even spiritual attack, but nonetheless, I was not being led by the Spirit. Just the day before, I had a very busy schedule, as usual, and was running from one appointment to another. One of the things on my agenda was to get my fingerprints done for my insurance producer licensing in Tennessee. I had to have it completed that day and had driven to the other side of the city because it was the only location that had an opening. I arrived early (shock!) and there was no one in the waiting room. Yay! I was so glad because I had to do this quickly and get back to my office for a Zoom appointment with a client. The woman in the office tried to pull me up in the system and couldn’t find me. She asked, “Did you have an appointment?” “Yes,” I said, “and I have driven across town to this location because you were the only one with space available today when I made the appointment.” My tone with her was less than friendly and I could already feel the anxiety rising inside me. “Well, you aren’t in the system and there isn’t anything I can do about it. You will just have to schedule another appointment,” she retorted. Clearly, all I could think was that the equipment to do my fingerprints is right here, there is no one in the office except me so why can’t you just go ahead and put me in the system and get this done. Better yet, isn’t there someone you can call that can fix this? But, that isn’t what happened. Instead, both attendants just stared blankly at me and said they were just a third party service and if it isn’t in the computer, they couldn’t do anything about it.
At this point my flesh had taken over, big time, and I said, “Really? There is no one that you can call? I set an appointment and I have to get this done TODAY!” They assured me that they were quite busy and didn’t have time to call anyone. Furthermore, they said they had a full schedule so if I didn’t have an appointment, I would need to schedule one and come back another day. All I saw was an empty office and two people who didn’t appear to be busy but still didn’t want to help me. That was the last straw. I was not nice as I stomped out the front door, almost hitting the man coming in the door with the door. I tried to smile and apologized to him but I was fuming. “I don’t have time for this today!”, I said to myself, as I slumped into my car. “I set this appointment and drove clear across town so why isn’t my appointment in the system,” I continued to rant. I looked up the company where I had made the appointment and called them. “Oh, here is the problem,” said the woman on the other line, as if it was no big deal, “It just didn’t transfer from our system to their system.” I asked her if she could please fix it and she assured me she could. So, while she was still on the line “fixing” this issue, I walked back into the building. Now, the waiting room had filled and there were at least 5 people ahead of me waiting to get fingerprints. As I walked into the office talking to the representative on the phone she said, “So, I have rescheduled your appointment for next week . . .” and before she could finish her sentence I said, where everyone in the waiting area heard me, “NO, NO, NO, NO! I need to have this done today!” “Yes, maam,” she continued, sweetly. “They will have to work you in today because this was our fault not yours, but I can’t put it in the system for today because there are no openings.” Knowing that the less than friendly staff here at this location were probably not going to like that they were going to have to “work me in”, I asked her to please tell them that, as I handed my phone to the lady who had just told me how busy she was. She rolled her eyes at me as she took the phone and rudely asked the woman on the other end, “What is the problem?” As I suspected, she was less than happy about the situation and probably because I had been so “in the flesh” about the whole issue minutes earlier. I sat down in the waiting room and they proceeded to help everyone there before me and an hour later than my appointment was scheduled, I finally got my fingerprints.
As I got back in my car, my focus was still on everything going wrong and that, now, I was going to be late for my next appointment. Why was everything such a battle? I called my mom and she and her crew were coming out of Bible study. Good timing! I said, “Mom, can you please pray for me.” I began to cry as those words came out of my mouth and everything from that week, not just the fingerprint issue, felt like an overwhelming mountain. But, as my mom and her sweet friends started to pray for me, I began to feel the peace of the Holy Spirit fill my car. My focus began to shift from the difficult situations of my week onto the reality that God wants to be in control of my life, every little part. He is a good Father. I remembered the scripture my pastor read on Sunday,
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation--but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:12-17 NIV
I certainly hadn’t represented my Father well in that moment. So, here I am, today, on the treadmill, listening to this new song (on repeat) that our church just released called, “Lord of It All” and it was as if the Holy Spirit said loud and clear, “Look At My Face! I want your attention, Heather. I want your focus to be on me.” The words to the song say, “I will stay surrendered, even when it feels uncomfortable because you’re in it all, Lord of it all.”* Uncomfortable. No one likes to be uncomfortable, yet life does that. The question is, will we stay surrendered to Him and His will?
It’s very easy to let our flesh rule when things are uncomfortable. The irony of this morning was that I was working out while listening to this song. I don’t like to work out, to be honest. I’m always willing myself to keep pushing and not quit because it gets uncomfortable. I like how I feel after it’s over, but in the middle of the part that pushes you, I’m ready for the cool down to come. The circumstances of life can be very uncomfortable and have been for some time now. I tend to wonder when the “cool down” is going to come. Rather than pushing through, sometimes I’ll let my flesh rule and start to complain to God about it just like I do with my workout. ”I hope you got a chuckle picturing me losing it at the fingerprinting office (my kids would call me “Karen”) and maybe you related a little with “being led by the flesh not the Spirit”. But, lately, every time I step out to do the ministry that I know God has called me to, I start to get attacked from everywhere. It seems like I get through one battle and here comes another and my mind wants to be led by the flesh and quit. When I say lately, I mean the last 5, 8, 10 . . . years. I think you know what I’m talking about. But the Word clearly talks about the value and reward for endurance.
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) says, “There, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”
That song goes on to say, “And at the end of the day, you’re the name above all names. And when it all falls away, you’re still standing. You’re still speaking. You’re still working. You’re still moving!*
David said in Psalm 27:8 (NKJV) “When You said, ''Seek My Face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not be led of the flesh, be led of the Spirit and seek His face. God did not call you to comfort, He called you to endurance. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:8 NKJV) Keep your eyes on Him and regardless of what we face, He will be with us and help us through it. Be led by His Spirit and you will finish this race well.
“Jesus, I am willing, even if it’s not the way I planned. I want what you want.”*
*The Belonging Co. “Lord of It All.” See The Light, Tennessee, 2021.