Everywhere you go, something or someone is clamoring for your attention. From all our electronic gadgets to the lure of the Internet, 24-hour-a-day news and/or gossip on TV, and telephones, coupled with the daily demands of life like housework, parenting, relationships, and occupations, our focus is spread pretty thin much of the time.
My husband and I went to Las Vegas for our anniversary, where distraction is as much an art form as a science. From the card-clickers on the street corners to the billions of blinking lights, to the building-sized advertisements for shows, to the amazing architecture and attractions, everything on the Strip is set up to draw the attention of passers-by.
It’s all about marketing, of course. If your mind, will, emotions, or senses are drawn to a certain restaurant you’re more likely to spend money there. With thousands of restaurants and cafes competing for the vacation dollars of the masses, the ability to distract and lure passers-by into your shop or restaurant is crucial to the success of an establishment.
Wal-Mart does it, McDonald’s does it, too. The fluttering strings of plastic flags at the used car dealership serve the same purpose as those wild light shows. But there’s more at stake than what’s in your wallet.
Distractions come in many forms, not just shiny stuff or moving objects, we can be distracted by anything that captures our attention. In military terms, a distraction is called a diversion – like the Trojan horse. It’s a sneaky way to disarm the enemy by getting his attention onto something trivial and unimportant.
Things that confuse us can be a distraction. (How many hours have you spent trying to figure out a puzzle, or solve a problem?) And we can be distracted by things that make us angry, annoyed, or afraid. Think of the hours, the energy, and the money wasted by well-meaning (and sincerely distracted) folks on Y2K preparations, SARS, the balloon boy fiasco, and fretting about politics, taxes, tainted peanut butter, or that lump of plastic trash turning into its own island out in the ocean.
Does that mean we should never think about or pay attention to any of these things? No. That’s like saying we’re distracted by housework and therefore shouldn’t do any. (Hey, it was a good idea at the time!)
There was a woman in the Bible who had trouble with distraction. Her name was Martha, and she was “distracted with much serving.” Not only did she have a to-do list as long as her arm, she was aggravated with her sister, Mary, because Mary wasn’t helping. She was SO irritated, she took her complaint to the top, right to Jesus, for whom she was hosting a big dinner party in her house.
Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are fussing far too much and getting yourself working up over nothing.” He went on to say that Mary, who was sitting at His feet enjoying his company and His teaching, had chosen the “good portion.” In other words, she was making much better use of her time and energy. His advice for Martha, “choose what is to your advantage.” For Martha, the better use of her time right then would have been to take advantage of having the Master in her living room, sharing His wisdom and insight for living the abundant life.
If the enemy of our souls can get us distracted, he can keep us from reaching our goals. It doesn’t matter if that goal is to lose five pounds, to resolve a financial crisis, or to finish writing a book or painting the living room… distractions will keep us in sight of the prize, but never able to attain it. Weigh your choices, your actions, the way you spend your time, in light of what Jesus said… is it to your advantage?