An email conversation with a friend unearthed two word pictures that help me understand a struggle I have.
Sometimes when I’m reading a book or story I find my attention diverted by something that happens or is said on a certain page or in the room in which I’m reading. While I may keep “reading” the words on the page, I am actually detached from the content and off in some land of daydreams or questions or speculations. Perhaps a paragraph or even a page later I snap back to reality and find that although I’ve been “reading” words, I cannot recall what I’ve read. Where have I been? Then I have to go back and reread what I’ve supposedly read already.
Other times I’m a restless reader. I want to know where the author is taking me. I have a strong temptation to skip ahead to see how the book ends. I get so anxious about the end of the book that I have trouble paying attention to part I’m reading at the moment. I get impatient with the author and wish he or she would just “hurry up and get there.” Like a little kid in the back of the van I keep asking “are we there yet?” and miss the scenery along the way. But the author has a purpose for each page. Each page leads to the next page like one mile leads to the next until we reach our journey’s end. Frankly, the last page of the book won’t make as much sense or bring as much joy if I skip the pages that get me there.
My struggle in both cases is with paying attention to the page I’m on. When it comes to reading my own story, the story of my life, I have the same problem.
As my friend admitted to me, it’s easy to get detached and find ourselves in a fog, not able to clearly see the Story God is writing, much less how our story fits into His. Something happens or is said that launches me into daydreams, despair, doubt or distraction. Sure I keep on living my life, but I’m not paying attention to it. I keep “reading” my story, if you will, but without truly being engaged with it. Days or weeks go by and I suddenly realize I’ve been detached from my own story. Where have I been? I haven’t been paying attention.
When it comes to my own story, I am also a restless reader. I want to know where the Author is taking me. Where will this story go? How will it end? And oftentimes it’s not so much the end I want to know, but merely the next chapter. I am tempted to focus on what’s ahead. I try to figure out where the story is going. And even though I know the broad generalities of where God’s Story is going, I get anxious about what the details will look like for me and my family. Again, I find myself not paying attention to the page I’m currently living. Not paying attention to what God wants from me right now. The truth is that I can’t get to the last page of my story without living the page I’m on right now. Again, the end of the story is infused with meaning and joy by the pages I’m currently living. I need to pay attention.
My poor reading habits have a common theme: paying attention.
Lord have mercy on this spirtually ADD son of yours.