I get distracted easily. When I worked at Target as a Team Leader, one of my executive leaders pointed out to me very dryly that I have the attention span of a gnat. I’m not sure what a gnat’s attention span is, but I imagine it is very tiny.
I can’t help it. I’m like the dog in the movie, Up. I like bacon…and squirrels…and cheesecake…and violins….and oh, ice cream!
You get the point.
But, as we are now in the season of Lent, I’ve been thinking a lot about being focused and being prepared. The 40-day lead up to Easter has often been misconstrued in the Christian circles I have been a part of. Perhaps it was a fear of becoming too closely associated with the Catholic Church, or a fear of holding onto a custom versus trusting in Christ. Whatever the reason, I did not grow up in a household that observed Lent. But this year, I am. I want to do something tangible to remind myself of Christ’s suffering.
So: I’ve given up Starbuck’s.
Whenever I think of going for a coffee, I instead think about the sacrifice that Christ made on my behalf.
I’m preparing my heart.
Isaac Watts did not intend his hymn, Joy to the World, to be sung at Christmas time as a celebratory song of Christ’s birth. Rather, he wrote the song about the Second Coming of Christ and the ushering in of Christ’s new Kingdom. A Kingdom of Peace and Joy, of Justice and Love. The phrase, “Let every heart prepare Him room” did not refer to opening up one’s heart to the Baby in the Manger, but opening one’s heart to receive the Savior of the world.
When I was in my early 20’s, I visited the Bahamas with my family. My dad was invited to preach in a small church on the island of Spanish Wells. One Tuesday afternoon, my mom and I joined several other ladies of the church in a Bible Study. The conversation drifted to the coming worship service on Sunday. “I spend more time in front of the mirror, preparing my face, than I do preparing my heart,” one lady commented.
Her comment wedged in my heart and mind. I’ll never forget it.
I wondered if prepared hearts only were meant for church services. Surely not.
I recently learned that two of my co-workers have husbands with Alzheimer’s disease. Another mom has a daughter with Type 1 Diabetes. Another lady works a weekend job to make ends meet. If my heart is distracted and my mind is wandering, I’m not present to hear the concerns of those around me. I don’t listen.
Distractions make me selfish.
I realize too often I’m only thinking about chores, getting ready for work, packing lunches, or grocery lists. Am I so focused on the next thing I have to do that I am robbed from the present moment? Am I racing towards the weekend and missing the week? Is my heart heavy and stressed because I haven’t taken a moment to breathe, pray, and surrender?
The term “prepared heart” can be an over-used, church-y sounding word. I’ve struggled with it quite often. I’m not looking for another thing to add onto my “To Do” list every day. I’m not thinking about memorizing long portions of the Bible, or attending more church services, or getting up earlier. For me, preparing my heart might happen while I’m on the bus to my job. I might quietly sit, reflect, and pray. Preparing my heart might happen while I’m cooking dinner and I pray for my spouse and son. While folding laundry, I might reflect on my day and give thanks.
Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, to “Always be ready to give an answer and a reason for the hope within you.” In other words, be prepared. Arm yourself with hope. Surround yourself with peace. We expect God to be at a church service or in a prayer meeting or in a worship song. But do we expect Him in a traffic jam? Is He in my cubicle with me? Do we see Him at the playground with our kids? Moses cried out in Exodus, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here!”
I don’t want to live a day without this presence.
Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk, talked about experiencing God on daily level that “All of life would get to be one, long, unbroken, practice of His presence.” That’s what I’m ready to do: practice His presence. The Savior turned the world upside down. God wasn’t only at the Temple, or at the mountain, or in the meeting tent anymore. No, He laughed with children and blessed them. He ate meals with prostitutes. He conversed with the lowly in society. He showed up in the most unexpected places.
And who were the ones who missed Him? The religious leaders who were distracted by codes and rules and regulations.
The common people, on the other hand, welcomed Him. Hard times had chipped away at their hardened hearts. They accepted a new way. They were taken aback by grace.
That’s why I’m celebrating Lent this year. I want to be amazed by grace. My heart desires a grand, giant dose of the Divine Presence. I want to rub it off on the cubicles around me because I know it changes lives. “Behold, I will do a new thing,” declares God. He did a new thing in Christ. He is with us! He is for us! He loves us. He’s everywhere. Make room for Him, whatever He might look like, or wherever He shows up.
May His presence bring you peace. May His love grip you tightly. May His grace flood your everyday life.
And when you think of Starbuck’s, think of grace.
I will be, too.