Our lives are filled with trivial distractions masquerading as urgent necessities.
Did you really need to check Facebook this morning when you woke up? Or text a friend while driving to work? What is it that makes you compulsively check your phone in the midst of a conversation?
When was the last time you spent an hour entirely focused on one thought, one task, one book, one person?
Because of the obvious and immense benefits the internet brings us, it has quickly become the context of our lives – not always to our advantage.
Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet. It has arguably replaced work itself as our most socially sanctioned addiction.
And it is is the motherlode of all distraction:
“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”
What is it that ought to be our focus? What is it that actually deserves our undivided attention?
For when we lose touch with that for which we were created, we’ll find ourselves spiraling into a frantic confusion, distracting ourselves with one stimulus after another from the disturbing hollowness of life.
If you’ve ever found yourself in such a place, Lent comes as an unexpected gift.
These seven weeks leading up to Good Friday and Easter – when we remember and focus on the Cross and the Resurrection, when we are together reflecting on what Jesus has done for us – these seven weeks are an invitation to slow down, to stop, to be attentive to what is actually essential.
Lent invites us to be attentive to reality.
There is a great and marvelous story going on right now, around us, in which we are full and necessary participants.
The story begins in the love of God overflowing into beauty and creativity a long, long time ago, and it continues right here and now in us, around us.
It’s your story, it’s my story.
It’s our story.
But most of all, it’s the story of our good Creator God who is Three-in-One, whose astonishing love overflowed into speaking us into existence. He created us to be in community with himself – Father, Son & Holy Spirit, and with each other. And then he made his home with us in an amazing world filled with wonder.
It’s the story of how goodness and beauty and truth collapsed into unfathomably dark evil when we chose to trust ourselves instead of our Creator.
And then it is the story of what our gracious Redeemer chose to do about the deep darkness into which we fell.
And finally it is the story of our glorious King rescuing us – his rebellious, distrustful, sinful, arrogant and corrupt creation – from evil, and making all things unimaginably new and marvelous and good.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this great story is that our King – having redeemed us – then turns around and trusts us with the mission-critical task of reconciliation, of restoration, of making all things new.
We are loved by him, redeemed by him, filled by him, trusted by him.
We are commanded by him to set aside the infinitely seductive distractions of the present age that entice us into forgetting our true story.
And we are invited by him to focus all of who we are toward following him into his mission of reconciling the world to himself in Jesus.
We begin by loving each other as he loves us. And as we do, we find astonishing power in that love to bring the glorious gospel of the Redeemer King to all creation.
It’s a wonderful story!
It’s the one true epic from which every great myth and legend and fairy-tale and film draws its themes.
But we have forgotten it.
We have directed our attention instead to ten thousand trivial fantasies that distract us with the seductive promise of selfish pleasure, idolatrous fame and private profit.
It’s time to remember.
During this season of Lent, we will immerse ourselves in select passages from God’s own Word that guide us into his story. We’re going to read large parts of the Bible together, and remember again who our God is, who we are, and what we are to be about.
We’re entering into the attentive life.
We’re seeking to be attentive to God, in his story.
We’re seeking to be attentive to each other, discovering who we truly are, learning to love one another as God loves us.
We’re seeking to be attentive to the world around us as we engage with the mission God has called us into.
Let the words that have shaped the people of God for millennia enter into you, and form you.
May the Creator, Redeemer and King, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit grace you.
May he open the eyes of your heart to see his love for you and for the world around you.
May he strengthen you to follow him faithfully into his redeeming mission with heart and mind and soul and strength.