Church was, and still is, one of Noah’s favorite places. When he was younger, he loved staying after church and goofing off with his friends. When it was time to head home, it was a chore to get him to leave without literally picking him up to go.
“Hey Noah, it’s time to go. You’ll see them again soon. We need to go. Come on. We need to leave to eat dinner. Noah, go to to the car. I’m leaving.” (I’m sure there’s a big list of parenting mistakes here, but stay focused 🙂
Once we decided it had been long enough. We told him we were leaving. We walked out to the car. He didn’t follow. We got in the car, watching him through the glass doors. He wasn’t budging. We pulled the car out of the parking space. He wasn’t phased. We drove off and drove around the church, through the side parking lot and circled back around. There he still stood. Not impressed.
Noah is a kid. Obviously we wouldn’t leave him, and apparently he knew that. But here’s another story about someone who did get left, and it’s a sad one.
In the Bible in the book of Judges, there was a man named Manoah. He had a wife, but they weren’t able to have children together. An angel of God showed up and big things happened. The angel told Manoah’s wife she would have a son. The angel gave her specific instructions for this kid – while pregnant, don’t drink anything fermented or eat things unclean, and don’t shave his head. He is set apart and will be God’s way of getting Israel out from under the Philistines.
His parents really wanted to make sure they were raising him the way God said, even requesting another visit from the angel for an additional parenting class.
This kid was Samson, and he was special. Samson’s hair was long and he was freakishly strong as he got older. But something happened.
Along the way, Samson lost focus on God, and in Judges we read this –
“But he did not know the Lord had left him.” Judges 16:20b
Samson wasn’t a kid anymore. He was set apart by God, but he let his desires for things other than God become his focus. By doing so, He turned his back on God, and was left alone and weak and blind.
Though things didn’t end well for Samson, ultimately he realized his sin. He asked God for one more shot at the Philistines and killed everyone in the temple of Dagon, including himself.
When people turn away from God, it’s always heartbreaking. But there seems to be an extra layer of tragedy when they don’t even seem to notice they’re doing it.
I’ve been there. You might have too. It’s easy to get so focused on something or someone else that our attention is no longer on God. Sometimes these things are “big” sins, other times they’re perfectly acceptable things that we let become bigger to us than God. Neither is okay.
How can we keep this from happening? Proverbs says this-
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
Guarding your heart does seem like the best place to start. If my heart is focused on God, I won’t be able to get distracted by the things that can take my eyes off God.
A lady from a Bible study I am part of shared some wisdom her husband passed to her and I haven’t forgotten it – If you have a minute, do this with me.
Look at something across the room from you, like a picture on the wall. While you are looking at it, notice all the other things you can still see (especially if your peripheral vision is better than mine). Right now, as I do this, I can be looking at the picture but I can still see my window, my favorite chair, my couch, my kitchen, my cat licking himself, lots of books and papers I didn’t pick up from yesterday – a bunch of other stuff.
Now walk closer to that picture you were focused on. As you get closer and closer to that picture, those other things are no longer competing for your focus. I can’t see my cat, those papers, and when I finally get as close as I can to that picture, it’s the only thing I see.
I want that with God so much. To be so focused and so close that nothing else will even be competition. I know you know as well as I do how we can make that happen. The more time I spend talking or listening to God, the more time I spend reading His words to me in the Bible, and the more time I spend listening to and reading from other people who are teaching me more and more about Him, the more focused I am getting.
Sometimes I just need a little reminder. Reading about Samson getting his eyes gouged out will do that.
I wonder if Samson hadn’t taken his focus off of God, what a beautiful story he could have had, rather than a sad one. I want mine and yours to be beautiful stories. Let’s get focused.