Monday, January 28, 2013

Focusing Problems - Amy Santarelli

I have never had to wear glasses until recently.  As I’ve gotten older, I find myself having trouble reading small print.  I have to hold things farther and farther away to focus well.  People my age joke that their eyes are fine, their arms just aren’t long enough. The most common eye disorders are focusing problems.1 In fact, if you don’t wear glasses now, you probably will when you get older.  But even if you have never worn glasses, I would guess you still have a focusing problem.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if your focus is something you need to change…
When you walk into a room with people in it, what is your center of thought?  Do you worry if people will like you? What they will think of you?  If they will notice your hair or clothes?  Do you wonder if someone will talk to you? Do you try and find your friends right away so you will feel comfortable?  Do you desire to be noticed?   Or do you hope you will be invisible?
If you answered, “yes” to any of those questions, you are likely to have a focusing problem.
The noun definition of focus is “the center of interest or activity.”  What is your center of interest? For most people, the focus is on their own self.   We are naturally selfish and look out first for number one.
I remember the cafeteria at my high school.  It was a huge, noisy place, brimming with my peers, and whenever I had to walk across the room, I felt like everyone was watching me.  I couldn’t even walk naturally, so focused was I on trying to look and move right, and trying most of all to avoid the horror of horrors—tripping and falling!  Then everyone for sure would stare at me and laugh.
Most likely, very few people even noticed me at all.  My perspective of myself was like this quote from Christina G. Rossetti:  “A man is ever apt to contemplate himself out of all proportion to his surroundings.”  I was focused on myself, and I was sure everyone else was, too. 
You would think as a Christian adult, I would no longer have such fears and feelings.  But it wasn’t too many years ago that I was to attend a work function with my husband.  I was very nervous.  What would the other ladies be wearing?  Was I dressed right for the occasion?  There would be a social time before the event, and I knew I would be expected to chitchat and make small talk.  I dreaded it.  I hardly knew them and they were different than me—I didn’t have a paying job and I home schooled our children.  What would I talk about?   Mostly I clung to the arm of my husband and looked forward to leaving. 
What a sad state.  Yes, it is natural to think of ourselves.  But as God’s children, we are no longer bound by those natural, fleshly inclinations.  Philippians 2:3 states, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.”  Our focus is not to be on ourselves, but on others.  What a novel idea!
When I finally learned this, I no longer dreaded my husband’s work functions.  Instead, I guessed that if I was anxious about meeting and talking with the other wives, it was highly likely that they were nervous as well.  We were probably all insecure and hoping others would be friendly to us.  So I made a decision—I was not going to worry about myself, but instead focus on making others feel comfortable. 
How different that next event was from others before it!  Once I took the focus off myself, I was able to experience the verb definition of focus: “to see clearly.”  I could now clearly see what God wanted me to do when He put me with people—He wanted me to focus on them, to show love and acceptance to them.  To ask them questions, and make them look good.  And when I did so, I left behind the cumbersome burden of making myself look good and was left with the joy of loving others.  And, as it often works in God’s kingdom, when you stop trying to meet your own needs, and meet the needs of others, you’ll find that your own needs will be met.  It really shouldn’t surprise us—God’s kingdom is full of paradoxes and seeming contradictions, starting with Jesus, the Servant-King, the Lion-Lamb, the One who saved us by dying for us. 
So let’s imagine your next social get-together, whether it’s with friends or church, work or school.  First, as you are getting ready, think about what you are wearing and do a check, especially if you are of the feminine gender.  It’s okay to want to look nice—beauty is an attribute of God—but if your motive is to draw attention to yourself, your motive and focus is wrong.  Your focus should be on others, and pleasing God.  Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.”  If your favorite outfit was dirty or your hair just doesn’t seem to do what it should, remember that it only really matters if you are focusing on yourself.  No one else will probably notice or care! So just smile extra big—smiling covers many a fault.
Then, when you arrive at your destination, examine your first impulse.  Is it to find a seat next to your favorite friend or the popular crowd?  Or even to try and hide so no one notices you?  Either extreme has a selfish, inward focus.  Instead, smile at your friends, but look for that new person or the one sitting alone.  Or if you’re the one sitting alone, swing your focus out to others and see if you can say hello to someone you don’t know.  If you do know everyone there, then work at asking others questions, not trying to show how much you know.  And continually do a motive/focus check on yourself.  By the end of the night, you will most likely find you have made a new friend, helped someone feel more comfortable, and most importantly, pleased God by having a focus that was 20/20 in His eyes.

Mrs. Amy Santarelli is a homeschooling mom and mother of four.


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