Wisdom in Winter – Day 4 – Focus

Read

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Proverbs 4:25-26

Reflect

One year, on holiday in Cyprus, we decided to hire a tiny car and take our young children for a drive up the mountain to visit a monastery. You have to admire our optimism if not our wisdom! We realised the error of our ways a couple of hours into the journey as the road became more and more treacherous. Eventually we were driving along a tiny ledge on a cliff edge, with the car bouncing over boulders. The children were amazing, singing their own new song called, “Bumpity Bumpity Road.” As the driver, I was not singing; I was gripping the wheel, praying and staring at the road ahead.

At moments like these, the message in today’s proverb presents us with excellent advice. Keep your eyes on the road. Fix your gaze. Give careful thought to the path ahead. I did plenty of that I can assure you, until we finally made it to some tarmac and civilisation, including the monastery where we could give thanks to God for our survival!

Whether we are on a cliff edge or not, there is something profound about focusing steadfastly on what is in front of us. There’s an amazing verse, which often encourages me to stop and pause when life feels overwhelmingly busy, or when my mind is working overtime.

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

Just like Mary, who had left a slightly frazzled Martha to the domestic duties when Jesus came to stay, it’s sometimes good to fix our eyes on what is most important. To focus on what is right in front of us.

Mary knew in that moment that nothing was more of a priority than spending time with Jesus. Everything else was a distraction.

Sometimes we can get so bogged down with the past that we don’t see the potential of the present clearly. We might carry burdens or guilt around like extra baggage, making the path ahead hard to travel. In contrast, we might find ourselves living in the future, hoping things will be different and that an easier or slower day is coming.

As parents, we can also easily fall into the trap of picking up and carrying everyone else’s burdens and forget that Jesus wants to lead us into a life where his “burden is easy” and his “yoke is light” (Matthew 11:30). It often doesn’t feel that way. Maybe our reminder today is to take stock of the ‘load’ we are carrying and to pass some of those pressures on to Jesus.

I used to roll my eyes at people who told me to make the most of today because my children would soon be grown up and gone. It turns out they were right. Sometimes I look back and wish I had paid more attention when given a splodgy painting to admire, or had put my phone away more and treasured those welly walks and jigsaws.

Life is a long string of God-given moments. What a gift! There’s nothing more precious that we can give to God or others than our focus, time and attention. It pays to keep our eyes fixed on what really matters and not get distracted.

Respond

  • Make a list of things that you are focusing on at the moment. Life, family, work, church, personal challenges? Take a moment to ask God whether there’s anything that you need to hand to him and then trust him with the outcome.
  • Do you ever find yourself living in the past or in the future? How can you train yourself to appreciate and focus on the present?
  • How can you help your children to fix their eyes on Jesus? Could you teach them this proverb as a memory verse? Could you go on a walk together and try and walk along a kerb or white line? And then talk about how focusing our attention just ahead of us helps us to stay on track.

Cathy’s top tip

Have a family motto or statement that helps to keep you focused on what matters. Maybe the kids can draw it and you can stick it up in different rooms in the house?

Could you plan a special family night in the month where you talk about what you as a family want to focus on? Maybe you want to be generous with your home and invite other friends and family to join you, or maybe you could go and visit people in your church family who don’t have family living locally.

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