One thing. I may focus on one thing. What is it?
I often marvel at God’s ability to know and love everyone on earth. Thinking about my own story, the complexity of my life and feelings, the intricacies of my interactions with others, and the requests I make constantly to my Father, it staggers my imagination to multiply his intimacy to the billions on this planet. How does he do it? In contrast, I am human and I may only focus on one task, one person, one conversation at any time. Just one!
What if my ability to focus my attention on one thing is by design? What if God purposely limited my ability to multitask — at least while I was in this body? While I’m sitting here typing, my body is processing millions of transactions completely out of sight. The autonomous nervous system keeps me breathing, my heart beating, the temperature of my body constant, the hormone levels needed, and a host of other internal systems in balance — automatically. I don’t have to think about them. When there is a problem, for example when I get a sliver, the body reports in: “Mission control we have a problem. There is a sharp object causing discomfort near the big toe. What do you want to do about it?” My response, “Thanks command module, I’m driving in traffic right now and it’s not the best time to address this. It’s not too serious, it can wait till I’m home.” The executive in me has the privilege of making the high-level decisions. My attention, my focus, my ability to concentrate on one thing, is my reality.
Think about the eye. I may see everything in front of me, but only one object may be my focus. Yes, I see everything in the periphery, I’m aware if something suddenly is different that needs me to change my focus, and my eye adjusts (automatically) to the lighting, but still, I may only look at one thing. The personal computer has made the concept of “multitasking” a workplace term— the ability to run several processes with the same processor at the same time. But I can’t confuse “changing quickly between processes” as multitasking. And that is the best I can do, but I cannot call it multitasking. It’s not. My brain, my person, cannot focus on more than one thing. I may have many activities that need my attention going at the same time: the eggs on the stove, the coffee brewing, the toast in the toaster, the lawn being watered, a text message ding on my phone, and the clock ticking toward my departure for work, but like the vision aware of all the activity in the periphery, there is only one thing I may give my full attention.
By design. Our Father and our God wants our full attention. What an important transaction when we give another our undivided attention. It is affirming, connecting, and it speaks to the other’s worth and value to me.
At the end of our lives, the differentiator between all people will be what we each have chosen to focus our attention upon. That object of our attention will transform our character into its image. We become like the thing we observe. Think abut it. That’s why the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples AFTER Jesus rose from the dead. We stare and become like the risen Christ who is standing before the Father not the dead Christ who is subject to the grave. In our own body, the autonomous nervous system serves us to a particular end — so our minds are released from the mundane so that we may consider more important things. I have a certain capacity every day to apply myself. Will it be work? Family? A new relationship I’m interested in? A skill I want to develop? So many choices. My values distinguish one priority above another. Today, I may read a book or watch football. I can talk with my son or work on a project. I can exercise or sit on the couch and watch a good movie because I had a tough week. I can cling to my own time, schedule, or plans, or I can worship my Father and love him with everything within me. Knowing and pursuing a value and goal is transforming. Whether or not I acknowledge these values, they are there. Laziness, lethargy, and sleepiness only mask the self-focus and self-serving that I think will make me happy. Oh to kindle afresh every day the true value of my life and heart… Jesus and his kingdom!
God designed us to be this way. And He encourages us to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (that I need) will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33). He said “Let your eyes look directly ahead, your gaze fixed straight in front of you” (Proverbs 4:25). “Don’t turn aside to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them” (Deuteronomy 28:14). “And your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘this is the way, walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said:
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 NKJV
From Helps Word Studies the Greek for “(if therefore your eye is) good” is haploús meaning unfolded, single – literally, “without folds” (J. Thayer), referring to a single (undivided) focus, i.e. without a (secret) “double agenda” which prevents an over-complicated life (becoming needlessly distracted). Haploús is the antonym of the Greek term diplous meaning, “double.”
Immediately after this he also said:
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 NKJV
What is the “one thing” I will focus my attention on today? If I don’t decide, my flesh will be happy to decide for me. One way or another I will choose. One day when I receive my new body maybe it will have a capacity to connect on multiple levels at the same time. The future possibilities are limitless. But today I will be intentional, goal-focused, and use the capacity I have to stare into his incredible gaze and be changed into that same character… from glory to glory.