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Monday, July 18, 2011

Distracted by Grace

My mornings are beginning to feel uneasy without spending time with God in prayer. I don't think I've ever had a prayer life like the one I am embarking on in this journey. My prayers feel like they have more weight and I sense that I am actually communicating with God instead of throwing up empty words. As time progresses, I will make it a point to write more about it. For now, I just feel a sense of calm in my heart after spending time praying.

I went to my church in LA yesterday. It was great to see many of the faces I haven't seen in a long while and sit in my usual seat. I felt like I was on the cast of Cheers and my pastor is Ted Danson. The more I visit my usual places, the more I realize how much I've missed it in LA.

As I sat in church, I realized the extent to which EVERYTHING on this earth seems to fight for your attention. Both animate and inanimate objects, people, trends, technology, and even your own body calls to you for attention. As I am trying to spend more time with God, I am realizing that I am balancing and having to shorten my time with friends, watching TV, and even reading. Fortunately, I don't have a job consuming most of my days so I have a lot more leeway to schedule things into my daily activities.

I noticed at church, that I was constantly turning around (as I sit in the second row) to see if there were other people I haven't seen. I also couldn't help, but be distracted by the guy sitting in front of me constantly checking his phone. Then my butt and back started to get sore so I was distracted by how uncomfortable I felt sitting there. Then drops of water started to fall from the condensation of the pipes in the ceiling and I couldn't focus on what was being preached through that. Towards the end, all I could think about was how hungry I was. Within a span of one hour, these, along with the temperature of the room, the people walking in and out, the light that glowed from the speakers, and even the movements that my friend who was taking notes next to me kept diverting my attention away from the objective of paying attention to the sermon so that I can listen, think, and apply it. Everything seems to want your attention.

The same thing happens outside of church. Having made the decision to focus primarily on God has been quite difficult simply because I am such a social being. I barely spend time at home, I'm always out and about with people, and I am regularly swapping schedules around so I can reconnect with the people I haven't seen while I was in Korea. The interesting thing is that now, I am weighing how I am spending my time on a moment by moment basis. When I am with people, I do my best to full engage with them, but now, I am making a conscious effort to make sure that as people allocate their resources like money to the things they value, I will do the same with time.

I think that the closer people get to God (or the more they want to) the more they will arrange everything in their lives to be oriented to Him. They will spend their money in ways that is oriented towards God, they will spend their time in ways that is oriented towards God, and they will spend their energy in ways that are oriented towards God. I've been trying for several years now to move towards getting the best of both worlds. Living in the world and being of it and simultaneously walking with God. At least, this is the conclusion I came to when I decided to be honest with myself. If there was ever a time I did so, this was the biggest crap I ever took on God. What I said by telling God that I want Him as well as all the things that the world could offer essentially was saying that God wasn't enough - when the greater reality is that He is MORE than I could ever hope for.

Distractions seem so normal that we brush them off like they are nothing. Just a natural byproduct of living in a busy place. But I wonder if they have a spiritual element. I feel most sleepy when I am about to read the Bible and pray. Its not like I don't enjoy reading the Bible (although until now, I can't say I really enjoyed praying), because I actually do. I am fascinated by the wisdom and the timelessness of the scriptures, but more so because the Word actually brings peace and truth to my life. And yet, I find myself distracted by the yawns and the call of the bed. In the movie, The Matrix, there was a scene when Neo first enters the Matrix by getting plugged in. Everything seems the same as before, except he is now aware that nothing is real except the mission at hand. Then he comes across a woman in the red dress. He turns his head to follow her with his eyes and when he turns around, gets his head blown off only to return to full consciousness on the ship. He then becomes informed that the woman in the red dress was installed to distract him. This is what life in so many ways seems like - as much as we are called to focus on one thing, we are instead distracted by millions of women in red dresses.

The one thing I am learning is that being distracted doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. The average "Christian" probably spends 2 hours with God a week - the time they spend at church. They will turn to God when they encounter a crisis or hit rock bottom, but most people have their focuses set on their careers or their relationships or their lifestyles that they find God a distraction from it. And for this I am so glad.

We are sinners saved by grace and as sinners we just want to pursue our own desires. As long as we feel like winners at the end of the day, we don't really care what we have to do or give up. Sacrifice becomes selfish and acts of service becomes self-oriented. The idea that we can be distracted by grace is truly amazing. It means that God cares enough about us to disrupt our lives as much as Satan tries to disrupt our focus on God during that short time at church. Our options are to respond or ignore. I've tried to ignore God's calling for the last few months, but the more I tried, the louder He got. I turned by back towards God and started running like Forrest Gump, except I flew clear across the Pacific Ocean and hid in the streets of Seoul. Yet, God found me. He distracted me to a point where I was overwhelmed with His grace because I missed walking with Him so much. Now, I'm recovering from what it feels a fatal accident that I was revived from and learning how to walk once again.

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