Focus

It’s simple, right? If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.

For a couple of days I’ve been working on a blog post that took on a different life. The writing became an achievement, the words working too hard  to say something that someone would want to read. I was striving for those kinds of words I read in other people’s writing that are healing, illuminating, and just beautiful so that they cause me to see the presence of God in the world anew. The reason I began to write this blog was to focus on what is joyful—not to gloss over what is difficult—but to see more wholly.

So today I will pay attention to what is worthy of praise, the grace that breaks into my discontent, my fears and uncertainties. About a month ago I received reviews on an article I’d submitted to an academic journal. Reading reviewers comments is always challenging and of course I focused on the overwhelmingness of the task they put before me.  I had six months, the first editor said, to complete the revisions and resubmit. No need to fret… until last week, when I got another email asking if I could have at least a draft of the revised article in 3-4 weeks. I said sure.

As I began the work, I lost my sense of what was possible. I held too tightly to my own part, what I can do on my own. Even in my failure to lean on God’s provision I continued to write my meditative “morning pages” and read devotionally. Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, the words “bird by bird” evoking Anne Lamotts’ book by the same title, came up in my morning pages reminding me that I only have to work on one tiny part at a time. It is my choice to either focus on the impossibilities and what if’s instead of actually doing something.

I’m also not alone. Cease striving, and know that I am God. Before me, God’s grace provided this prayer from Martin Marty’s book, When True Simplicity is Gained: Finding spiritual clarity in a complex world.

Be near to me so that I may not feel the heaviness of labor, nor sink under adversity. St. Gertrude

 The title of the reading for the day was “focus”.  The photograph that anchored the reading was a simple cupola against a black background that made the off-centeredness starkly apparent- an apt metaphor for my misaligned focus as well.

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