I've been a youth ministry intern for four days now. And I don't have a burning desire to drop out of ministry, so I think that's a good sign. Things have actually been going really well, and I've already learned a lot of things (including how to use a caulking gun and a laminating maching). The rest of the staff at the church is awesome, and the few students that I've already gotten to meet seem really cool. The family I'm staying with is very nice, and the wife made some delicious brownies last night that I've been munching on periodically. They don't have wireless internet at their house, however, so I've made it a nightly practice to go to the Panera down the street to check facebook and write this post. I feel so classy hanging out at an overpriced sandwich shop. But all I get is a large soda. I guess I'm a bit of a poser.
I went to the optometrist over winter break to get my eyes examined. Over time, I had begun to realize that I couldn't recognize people very well from far away or see all that well when I was driving. And once I tried to play basketball outside when it was starting to get dark, and I took a pass right in the face because I never even saw the ball. So I decided it was time to get a new prescription for my glasses. During the exam, the doctor had me cover my left eye and read the chart with my old glasses still on, and I could read the bottom line pretty well. Then I covered my right eye, and I could only read the third biggest line. So now I have a left lens that is about twice as thick as the right. So I hope chicks dig guys with inch-thick panes of glass in front of their eyeballs.
This story has no purpose except to introduce the topic of focus. (I feel like I always start things with something like, "Lately I've been thinking about...." So might as well mix it up a little bit). Typically, people want a sense of focus in their lives. They want to be aiming at something, not fluttering around aimlessly like a blind hummingbird. But of course we don't just have one focus in life. We focus on many different things at different times. Sometimes we focus on God, sometimes we focus on our friends, sometimes we focus on our jobs, sometimes we focus on school, and on and on. So our lives in effect become a grouping of different compartments, and we intermittently dip into the various compartment, focusing our time and energy in a specific area for a period of time.
All the while, we're looking for some sense of balance, which is a pretty difficult task. The more compartments we have in our lives, the harder it is to keep them balanced. How do we handle friends, ministries, girlfriends, school, sports, and God? Of course things get out of whack. It's too much for us to handle. So then we finally recognize that all these different areas in our lives are out of balance. We start failing classes, so we say, "I just need to take some time and really focus on school." We realize that our girlfriends think we're jerks, so we say, "I really need to focus on her for a while." We stop sensing God's leading, so we dust off our Bibles and say, "I'm going to focus on God." Of course when we focus on one area, all of the others fall by the wayside a little bit. It's like looking through the scope of a sniper rifle (something I've never done, but I can imagine what it's like). When you're looking through the scope, you're entirely focused on what's in the minuscule field of vision, and you don't really care about what's outside the scope until someone walks right up beside you and clocks you in the head.
Maybe our whole scheme is somewhat flawed. Is life really meant to be viewed as a collection of varying spheres of life, all vying for our attention, time, and energy? I think if we're going to live a meaningful, well-balanced, less jumbled life, our focus needs only to be on our relationship with God. That relationship should not be one of many different areas on which we focus. It should be THE focus. Nothing else really matters comparatively. ALL of our time, ALL of our energy, ALL of our resources need to be centered on how we can know God more intimately, serve him more faithfully, and worship him more honorably.
That doesn't mean that we stop caring about our friends, family, schoolwork, girlfriends, ministries, or whatever else. Rather, our attention to these things flows out of our focus on Christ. No part of life is divorced from our relationship with God. Life isn't like a tackle box with its numerous little compartments for lures. Even if our "God compartment" is proportionally larger than all the other compartments, it's not enough. Rather, life is more like a casserole, where the pan is our relationship with God and everything else is mixed together within it. This makes everything better. Ministries are obviously more effective when they're powered by a thriving relationship with God. Marriages are stronger. Friendships are deeper.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to put a little added focus toward something. If a marriage is having problems, pull back from other things and fix that. If school is going poorly, play less XBox and read your textbooks. But nothing should detract from our relationships with God, because only that relationship makes the rest of life worthwhile.
In November 2007, the sound on my computer randomly stopped working. I tried everything I could to try to figure out the problem, but to no avail. Not wanting to spend money to get it professionally looked at, I just lived with it. So whenever someone messaged me and said, "Hey, check out this Youtube video," I had to reply, "I can't. No sound." Then today while at the church office, I heard the strangest thing. Noise was coming from my speakers. So 18 months after a random breakdown, my sound system experienced a random start-up. Craziest thing since the lice healing.