Summary: Focusing our lives in line with the Shema, "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and might," is another key element in attaining and maintaining a balanced life and living an abundant life.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Focusing Your Life”
For the past several weeks, we’ve been addressing the issue of balance and how we can achieve and maintain this essential element of the abundant life. We’ve have investigated ways to slow down, to keep a sense of awe in our lives, to balance our work, and to lighten our load. Today we are going to look at the need for focus in a balanced life.
An early Television talent show once featured a man who could keep over twenty plates spinning on dowel rods at once. As viewers watched, the man ran frantically back and forth between plates spinning them just before they fell off the stick. I’ve often thought that life, at times, was a little like keeping several spinning plates at one time—time consuming, exhausting, and not very fulfilling. The question before us is how can we find focus in the middle of the spinning plates of life.
The movie, “City Slickers” addresses this issue. Billy Crystal, plays a character who is going through a mid-life crisis and spends two weeks at a dude ranch trying to find himself—to get focused. Curly, a grizzled cowboy tells him the secret of life.
GOD IS OUR FOCUS
We know that what Curly says is true. We need to have something in our lives to live for, and perhaps to die for. Olympic athletes go for the gold. Successful business people are single-minded in their pursuit of their goal. Not surprisingly, couples who make their relationship the priority in their lives usually have a marriage made in heaven (but crafted on earth), and strong families are spawned from making family a top priority.
The Scriptures identify a different priority than any of these for the Christian. That priority is proclaimed in this passage of Deuteronomy, “Hear O Israel the Lord your God is one, and you shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might.” The focus of the Christian, of you and me, is to love God and serve God in all that we say and do.
The Israelites would awake every morning and repeat this verse, reminding themselves of what they were to be about during the day. Orthodox Jews still do to this day.
This is not a call to be a pastor or a missionary in a far off third world country. This is a call to focus our lives and align all the activities of our lives in love and service of God. Our jobs are ways we love and serve God. Our relationships with others are ways we love and serve God. Our family is a way we love and serve God. Our leisure time is a way we love and serve God.
In order to keep these activities and goals from becoming God in and of themselves, it is necessary for us to consciously determine that they are ways we love and serve God. These activities and items need to be a part of our lives, however, they are never to be the primary focus of our lives. Our love and service of God always supercedes them.
SHARE THE FOCUS
I usually don’t tell anyone the goals that I have, that way when I don’t achieve my goals people won’t ridicule me and tell me that I’m a failure. There’s a flip side to this, however. If I do tell people a goal that I’m going after, I usually make the effort to achieve the goal. Talking about my focus helps keep me focused.
The writer to of Deuteronomy instructs the people to impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Our focus can be a wonderful way to nurture the faith of our children as we share with them how we see our work, our volunteer activities, even our leisure activities as ways we love and serve God. Al Braca shared with his wife Jeannie and son Christopher, that he really didn’t like his job as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, but he felt he was called there to be a witness to his co-workers. He was at his job on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center on September 11th. After instructing an MCI operator to tell his family that he loved them, he ministered to his fifty co-workers in the horrific moments before the tower’s collapse. Sharing his focus kept Al focused, nurtured the faith of his family, and touched the lives of his co-workers.
One of the greatest temptations we have is to be closet Christians. We keep our faith to ourselves so that no one will be able to criticize us if we don’t measure up to his or her expectations or ours. Our silence virtually guarantees our failure. Do our friends know how we see our faith being lived out in what we do and say? Do our children understand how our work is a way we serve God? Do our parents know how we see being a student is a way to serve God, and how our future plans line up with what we believe God is calling us to do? Our faith does not need to be the topic of every conversation, but neither should it be the one topic that we avoid.