It's been a very long time since I've posted here. Too long. I hope to remedy my neglect.
Here's a short reflection on distractions, that came up in a conversation with a friend.
My friend Kevin is a gifted musician and composer of inspirational, praise and worship music. He knows of my background in Theater, and my recent writings, online and off.
We often discuss the creative arts, and the ways in which we sense God working through the gifts He has provided us, and the challenge of living up to His trust.
Kevin shared some of his sometime struggle with distractions. He has a virtual recording studio in his home, and describes that sometimes fiddling with his equipment or some other technological components consumes more of his “creative time” than he would like. He gets into some equipment or setting things up, then before he knows it, his creative time is over, and nothing’s been created.
I can relate. I suppose any of us who web log (blog) with any regularity or passion deal with the age old problem of creation versus experience. How’s that?
I read a lot online, most often to get ideas for things to write about. I write more of politics than is healthy, I think. Whether military or political, I can spend so much time reading that I run out of time for writing. More than just a matter of time, however, is the matter of attention and focus. I spend too much time watching, reading, absorbing, and dwelling on the wrong things.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
Good writers will always tell you that life experience comes before any good writing. You have to have things to write about. Hemingway had to go fight in the Spanish Civil War. (Well, no he didn’t, but his war-time experience gave him lots of material to work with for his writing.) Military bloggers (MILBLOGS) have a ready source for their military commentary, based on their war-time experience.
Writers who spend too much time immersed in their writing often find themselves detached or isolated from communities, public life, or other life experiences. They can often feel out of touch, and many set aside time to explore new circumstances, or reintegrate themselves into familiar settings.
Sometimes I think life is all about the distractions. I think sometimes Art comes from distraction. Art is how those distracted respond to the distraction.
Distraction comes from living in the world. We can’t avoid or eliminate the distractions themselves, and God doesn’t call us to.
God may call us to be a part of this world, but not to be conformed to it.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)
There is one in us that strengthens us to not conform, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that allows us to stand apart, and stand strong.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
Paul describes a thorn in the flesh, an ever-present intrusion or distraction that he must somehow accommodate, and over which he must persevere. Whether in fact this was a chronic injury or illness, or a recurring temptation, Paul’s thorn describes something unhealed and unresolved. A part of life, the thorn represents an opportunity for Paul to rise above his circumstances.
So it can be for us.
We ought not to be too hard on ourselves – and possibly let go of any sense that we are responsible – for the distractions we experience. We ought not to pretend or try to wish away our emotions or emotional responses to events or circumstances that interrupt what otherwise we plan to accomplish or in which we would participate. We can change our behaviors, but we shouldn’t try to become inhuman.
We’re all too human, and we will experience the full range of emotions – and if we try to stuff or ignore them, they will find other ways to present themselves. In and of themselves, our emotions are neither good nor bad. We sin or triumph over sin in how we respond to our emotions. The same is true with distractions.
Some distractions are invitations. Some are signs and warnings.
We must not become the distractions that mislead or tempt others. Don’t be conformed to the world.
So often, we cut corners (or want to). We take steps, more or less than required, to avoid discomfort, or seek out leisure or ease. In the process, we may shirk a responsibility, or miss out on an experience that God divinely appoints.
Sometimes, it’s most important that we feel that thorn as a thorn, and keep looking on distraction for what it is. Only then, will we receive what God has meant for our good, as we allow the Holy Spirit to prompt us to respond in a new and different way. Often, that can be an act of creation.