Have you ever been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even as a youth pastor, people would ask me what my plans were when I finally got a real job. Pushaw. As if playing dodgeball with students while eating pizza and chugging Mt. Dew isn’t a real job! Puhleeease.
I remember being asked that question as a child. The answer would change frequently. At first I wanted to be in the military, that seemed so courageous to me and today I still have such esteem for those that serve our nation in the armed forces. (Thank you for your service!) After that I moved to less heroic and more glamorous pursuits usually involving pro sports. For a while it was football and then it was definitely basketball. I was pretty sure an L.A. Laker’s talent scout would see me shooting hoops on my home playground, his jaw would hit the black top when he saw me drain a dozen threes in a row and he’d offer me a contract on the spot.
For a while I had a pretty well-documented movie career. Let’s just say that the Ram Joe movie collection represents some of the most compelling movies ever made (at least in my house). They had drama, action, romance, and lots of awesome (terrible) special effects and creative (red neck) editing techniques. Truly these masterpieces should have launched my acting career but alas, they never made it into the right hands.
As a child, my focus was all over the place. What seemed so good one day, was discarded for the next great thing the next day. If I saw something really cool on TV or a friend was totally into something, I suddenly found my vision being redirected.
With my 40th just a few days away, what I’m dubiously calling the “half-way point of my life,” I’m realizing how much more I want my vision to become narrow. I truly want to be more and more narrow minded as I enter phase two of my life.
Ok, not narrow-minded like it’s often defined in our culture (although sometimes I’d be happy for that label, too!). I’m talking about spending my energy and focus on fewer and fewer tasks; expanding the time and attention I give a few goals and dreams.
Over the past few weeks as I’ve been writing these 40 essays over a period of 40 days, I’ve had to be hyper focused on my daily writing goals. Each morning my iPhone alarm has called me out of sweet slumber at 5:55 so that I have time to meet with God through prayer and Bible reading, wake the older kids for school, and begin, or finish up, a blog post. Each evening I go to bed putting my daily thoughts on paper (literally, writing them in a journal) and lining up my next day’s writing projects.
During this time I’ve also been working on several other Overboard projects. Not only am I writing each day, but I’ve been working with editors, artists, web designers, authors and other people with skills related to these ongoing tasks. Much of my free time has been spent expanding the potential for Overboard Ministries to challenge people in how they are living in response to God.
What haven’t I done much of? I haven’t spent a lot time on social media stalking (a habit that’s easy for me to fall into). I have spent less than ten minutes, over the past 40 days, playing iPhone/iPad games. I haven’t wasted much time scanning news channels for the latest political scandals and opinions, and I have all but removed myself from major sports events like the NFL draft, the NHL playoffs and the NBA finals (three activities that I normally follow with some interest). My narrow mindedness has forced me to make some choices.
And you know what? I’m good with that; because my focus has been more refined, my time has been better spent. Traci and I are as connected as we’ve ever been, even as we navigate some tough times for our family. I’ve been able to engage my children more deliberately, pour myself effectively into projects at work (my “real” job!) and experience the lessons I need to learn while figuring out how to run my first half marathon. I’m enjoying picking up a new hobby, reading some challenging books and finding fun, creative and inexpensive ways to build awesome memories in our NW Michigan home. Narrow vision has been very good for me.
I notice that Paul got very narrow in his vision as he aged. In Philippians he wrote, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...” Paul’s vision became super narrow -- he was willing to discard everything that distracted his vision from living a Christ-centered life.
In the same way, the writer of Hebrews issues us the same admonition in regards to being narrow minded. My theme verses for 2014 are located in Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...” Ditching sin is not optional for those trying to please God, but the writer of Hebrews takes it a step further when he writes about “anything that hinders.”
When we remove the things that hinder our vision, when we become more focused, we can then more easily accomplish the second part of that passage, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...” In other words, when we remove sin and hinderances from our lives, we become more narrow minded!
I’m looking at “Life, part 2” and wondering what it will take to make it the best it can be. I don’t want to be at the end wishing I had been less distracted and I don’t want to realize that I invested a lot of time caring about things that didn’t really matter. This life is the only one we have to give as an act of worship to our Savior, and I for one, want to make it count.
And you know what’s most interesting? The more narrow my vision becomes, the more time I spend enjoying the people and things of life that I love most. My narrow focus has increased my family time, my writing time, my exercising time, my wife time, my church time and even my work time. I imagine that if I continue to refine my focus, those things will become even bigger parts of my daily routine.
How’s your vision today? How narrow minded are you? Let’s clear out some of the distractions so that our lives can be spent on the people and activities that matter most. A focused life on the water, is truly a great life!
38 down, 2 to go!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!