Multitasking is a beautiful thing and one of the defining characteristics of our society. Think about it: when was the last time you did just one thing at one time? When I’m working, I’m usually listening to music or talking with someone or thinking about something else. When I’m watching TV, I’m playing a game or scrolling through social media or reading an article. When I’m driving, I sometimes even drift off and begin focusing on something else (scary, right?). I am rarely fully present, what about you?
I think we, as a technologically, information-centered people, have lost our ability to focus and this has impacted our relationship with God.
Over the past few days I have been keenly aware of just how little I focus on God. When I pray or worship I start out really well but eventually my brain leads me to other things: work, events of the day, dreams and goals, etc. All of these things aren’t bad, it’s not like I go from worship to watching porn or cussing someone out. Usually I go from worshipping God to thinking about something I can do for God. But anything that takes the focus from God, no matter how “good” it may be can and will become a detriment.
It’s easy for us to think that this divided focus is only applicable in the 21st Century, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case. Moses is a great example of this. In Exodus 18, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, comes to visit him and discovers just how distracted Moses had been. Moses had been using his time to judge all of the people of Israel, taking his focus away from God. Jethro recognized this and immediately pointed it out to his son-in-law.
“The next day Moses took his place to judge the people. People were standing before him all day long, from morning to night. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?”
Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me with questions about God. When something comes up, they come to me. I judge between a man and his neighbor and teach them God’s laws and instructions.”
Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”
Moses took Jethro’s advice and in the next chapter Moses’ focus was back where it should’ve been all along: on God. In Exodus 19, he was invited up to Mount Sinai to commune with God. Because Moses had a singular focus he was able to hear from God, get the 10 Commandments, and learn the strategy God had for the people of Israel.
What would our world look like if we were intentional to regularly set aside time to focus wholly on the Lord?
I wonder what God is trying to speak to us that we’re unable to hear because we’re too busy focusing on other things. What would it practically look like for you to focus wholly on God every day, even if just for a few minutes? For me, it requires turning off all my devices and being completely still. I usually have a piece of paper next to me so I can jot down other thoughts as they come up for me to return back to later.
Find what that looks like for you. Do you focus better on God when you’re outdoors or inside? Do you need music or silence? Do you like to hand-write prayers or say them aloud? As you experiment, as you learn your best way of focusing on God, don’t be afraid to fail. Or, said another way, don’t beat yourself up when you fail, because God doesn’t.
I believe, as we exercise our “focus” muscle, the skill will transfer to other areas of our lives improving our relationships with others, our performance at work, and so many other areas.
Multitasking is great, but I believe focus can be even better.