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Keep Your Eye on the Ball

by Kimberly Dunnam Reisman

A few years back I played golf for the first time and I stunk. I haven’t picked up a club since. I don't know a lot about it, but I think I stunk at golf because I couldn’t seem to keep my eye on the ball. I would line everything up and all that, but then right when I went to hit I always seemed to look at where I want the ball to go instead of watching what I was doing when I was swinging. It was like the end result distracted me from the actual doing.

We live in a world of distractions. We're all so busy. We seem to have more responsibilities and distractions and it's like our culture is defined by seemingly infinite opportunities and options. At the same time it seems like the best description of the worldview that unites most of us is "whatever."

In a world of distractions we end up becoming enslaved to what Mike Slaughter called the tyranny of the urgent. Whatever is the most urgent, that's what gets our attention. That kind of approach to life - that kind of domination by distraction - hinders us from all kinds of things, but it especially affects our intimate relationships - with others and with God. It’s not easy to keep your eye on the ball, on what’s really important; it’s easy to get distracted.

The problem is that there's a 24/7 mentality in our culture. We’ve got to be on the move. New technology increases that way of thinking, so much so that it becomes easier to be busy and harder to take the time necessary to build solid relationships.

As Christ followers, Jesus is always our model and if you look at his life you never see someone who was enslaved to distraction. It wasn't about a tyranny of the urgent for him. He understood what it meant to be focused on what's important. When he was visiting his friends Mary and Martha he talked about losing the distractions. Martha was freaking out trying to get this big dinner ready while Mary was hanging out listening to Jesus. When Martha complains to Jesus he tells her there’s really only one thing worth being concerned about and by listening and paying attention Mary showed that she understood what that one thing was - it’s about relationship, it’s about attention. His entire life and ministry Jesus showed us what kind of spirituality he was all about - a spirituality of attention not distraction.

The spirituality of the Jesus way is pretty simple (not easy - just simple) because it's only based on two things - our relationship with God and our relationship with others. It's about putting aside our distractions and paying attention to our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

I love Dave Matthews. His music speaks to me so often and at so many different levels I'm always amazed. One of his classic songs is Ants Marching:

We look at each other

wondering what the other is thinking

but we never say a thing

and these crimes between us grow deeper

take these chances

place them in a box until a quieter time

lights down, you up and die

All this raises a big question for me. Are we taking all our chances - all our chances for intimacy - for honest and open sharing - all our chances to give deliberate attention to another person - to show real interest in what the people in our lives are thinking and feeling - are we taking all those chances and placing them in a box until a quieter time? 

Robert Schuller, the TV preacher from the Crystal Cathedral told a story about being on this huge book tour - 8 cities in 4 days - on top of his normal job. He was going over his schedule with his secretary and she reminded him that he was scheduled to have lunch with the winner of a charity auction. He was stunned when he saw that winner had paid $500 for chance to have lunch with him. But he was even more stunned that the winner was his own teenage daughter. Lights down, you up and die.

It’s about keeping our eyes on the ball. It's about understanding what’s really important and focusing on it. It's about opening our lives and our homes and our spaces and our time to others and to God.

Dave gets it:

Goes to visit his mommy

she feeds him well, his concerns, he forgets them

remembers being small

playing under the table and dreaming

take these chances

place them in a box until a quieter time

lights down, you up and die

There was this missionary in Paraguay - Stuart Sacks. One day a Maka Indian named Rafael came to sit on his porch. Sacks went out to see what he wanted, but Rafael responded “Ham, henek met." He was confused because he understood the words; he just didn't get what Rafael meant. “Ham, henek met” - I don’t want anything; I’ve just come near.” When Sacks told the story to a colleague he was told that Rafael was honoring him. He really didn’t want anything; he just wanted to sit on Sacks’ porch. Rafael found satisfaction and pleasure just in being near him.

It's that Jesus way kind of spirituality. There's only one thing to be concerned about. Are we so distracted that we can’t even discover what it is? Are we so production oriented that we can't see the value in just coming into God's presence? Are our lives so busy that we’ve lost the ability to move beyond all those seemingly urgent items that pop up on our calendars and blackberries and iPhones - to put things down and go sit under the table and dream?

Are we taking all our chances - all our chances for creativity and quiet - for opening our hearts and minds to the world of spirit and life - all our chances for brainstorms and new ideas - for awareness and inner understanding - are we taking all those chances and placing them in a box until a quieter time?

Are we taking all our chances for divine connection - for experiencing God’s intense and never ending love for us - all our chances to receive God’s wisdom and power and guidance - to sense with overwhelming confidence the depth of God’s forgiveness - are we taking all those chances and placing them in a box until a quieter time? Lights down, we up and die.

The last part of Ants Marching describes us to a tee:

Driving along this highway

all these cars and up on the sidewalk

people in every direction

no words exchanged, no time to exchange

when all the little ants are marching

red and black antennae waving

they all do it the same

they all do it the same way

Jesus told Martha there was only one thing worth being concerned about - Mary discovered it - have you? Are you living out a Jesus way kind of spirituality - the kind that pays attention? Or are you living under the tyranny of the urgent? Are you keeping your eye on ball? Or are you marching with all the other ants - everybody's antennae waving - no words exchanged because there's no time to exchange them? Are you taking all your chances & placing them in a box for a quieter time? Lights down, you up and die.