The Holy Nature of Distraction
Life really starts when we become derailed
We seem to be born on a track of sorts. Maybe we aren’t so aware of it when we’re really young. But when we reach a certain point in human development, we become aware of a “track” that we’re on.
This track is like a juicy steak for the human ego. It can take many forms. Maybe you’re hell-bent on destruction (hey, I’ve been there). In that case, well, destruction is your track. Maybe you want to graduate law school or seminary (ahem). That’s your track.
Our track becomes the preoccupation of our lives. If anyone or anything distracts me, THAT’S THE ENEMY!!
Theologically speaking, this track mentality is also called a ‘vision of glory’.
We also have micro tracks...
Right now, I want to publish this piece. My ego is dead set on making that happen. My wife and daughter are on their way home and I know that in 45 minutes, I’m going to be dis-track-ted. And there’s nothing worse than being distracted (merely a change of spelling).
Today, we have an endless array of productivity apps to keep track of our… tracks. To coordinate our visions of glory.
We’re like modern-day monastics in this regard. Monastics avoid every distraction between themselves and God. They move into deserts, forests, and caves to live solitary lives and concentrate on one thing… The divine.
If you’re in the #entrepreneur algorithm online, your vision of glory isn’t likely God. It’s your business that you’re #hustling so hard to develop.
Or, if you’re a workout buff… You have your diet/workout plan and if anything pulls you away from it, you’re pissed.
Burdens are distractions.
COVID19 has been a giant collective distraction.
When you’re on a track, it has a destiny. A goal.
In order to achieve that goal, you have to enter the law (another theological term, sorry).
What’s crazy is, the law always comes disguised as love. We ‘love’ what we’re doing so much so that everything that dis-tracks us can go to hell.
In the theological sense, this law comes in two commands…
Love the neighbor as yourself
Love God above all
How in the world is this possible?
Into the woods we go.
Monastic life, baby.
This is living by pure law. The way I see it, and the way that Martin Luther experienced it, this way of living has a horrible effect on us and those in our lives. In short, it leads to…
Our tracks paired with our various distractions produce anxiety. It eats at us. We might cruise along for some time, but eventually, we come to a grinding halt.
This so-called love of this glorious destiny turns quickly into our worst nightmare.
The root of our anxiety isn’t the distractions in life — the things that derail us from our various goals. The problem is the track itself.
Don’t get me wrong… The law is good. It’s given by God. God knows it’s good for us to love God and our neighbor. To eat healthy and provide for our families.
The problem is that the law doesn’t produce the effect it begs of us. It merely produces anxiety and brings us to the end of ourselves.
It’s dead weight.
A heavy yoke.
Law is not mercy.
Only mercy leads to the fruits that the law commands.
Christ didn’t come to help us move along the tracks of our lives. Christ came to dis-tract us — to take the track away completely and put mercy in its place.
We see this in Luke 10, in the stories of the Merciful Samaritan (a much better title than the ‘Good’ Samaritan) and Martha and Mary. Jesus uses these stories to illustrate to the young lawyer how to achieve eternal life. These are stories of people who have their tracks in their minds and how Jesus dis-tracks them.
The Levite and the priest both walked by the man who’d been beaten. They didn’t want to be distracted by that guy’s suffering.
I’ve SOOO been here! I can’t tell you how many suffering people I’ve walked right on by because I was flying along on the greased rails of my track — whatever that was at the time.
The Samaritan is the one who is distrack-ted into showing mercy for his neighbor. That mercy goes both to the neighbor in need and back to the Samaritan. Both ways.
It’s nonsensical. The track makes sense.
But life is found off the track in the ditch.
Moving on to Martha and Mary…
Jesus is on his way into a village. Which is interesting because it seems that Jesus is on his own track. But he knows where that track is going to end… On the cross. So Jesus welcomes distractions.
He encounters Martha, who has a very sturdy track. Martha welcomes Jesus in (she must be a 2 on the enneagram) and that’s where he meets Mary.
Mary does not have a sturdy track, it seems. She’s lost track of her, well… track... I’m sure that Mary has long felt insecurity about her shaky track in comparison to Martha, who, on the other hand, has likely always felt an air of superiority over Mary’s trackless behavior.
When inside, in true Martha-esque form, she heads to the kitchen. Mary hangs out and lounges in the living room with Jesus. She finds herself captivated. That’s it. She’s listening. She’s doing nothing. Her vision of glory is out the window and all she can hear is the Word.
Mary surrenders to distraction. And this holy distraction distracts Martha. Martha is busy serving her guest over a hot stove as her lazy-ass sister just hangs out doing nothing.
Martha goes to Jesus, not to listen to his Word — not to be enraptured by distraction — but to ask Jesus to get this evening back on track by telling her lazy sister to get in the kitchen and help her.
Martha wants Jesus to have Mary function as the law in her mind commands. That’s when Jesus’s mic-drop moment happens (he’s so good at these)…
“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus essentially tells Martha that her focus is in the wrong place. Martha was trying to shoulder her own load and enroll her sister to help her with the small stuff. The thing she asks Jesus for is the wrong thing. She asks Jesus to help her obtain her vision of glory. To help things get in line with the law.
Wrong focus, Martha...
The right choice is not the law.
The right choice is not accusation.
The right choice does not lead to anxiety.
The right choice is to allow mercy in.
But who wants that?
That’s a big distraction.
I can’t stand distraction. The way I see it, Martha is right. I want to be someone like Martha in my kitchen because that’s who makes sure things get done.
I want to finish this damn blog post but now my daughter is asking me to slide on the kitchen floor with her in our socks. What good will THAT do? What kind of glory does that hold? Is this going to help pay for her college tuition? Noooo! That’s not even a subcategory of my vision of glory in theological publishing.
But something in this Word whispers to me. It beckons me.
Your daughter is an angel sent to dis-track you. I know you think that your track will lead to glory. To a better life for her. But in God’s economy, your vision of glory is bullshit. The saving grace for both of you happens when your car runs off the track and you end up sliding across the kitchen floor for no higher purpose whatsoever.
God of mercy, please help us see the pitfalls of our various tracks — the many visions of glory we hold so tightly to — and help us see the virtue of distraction.
After hearing your Word, we see that our tracks lead merely one place. To death.
Jesus, you have revealed to us through your life, death, and resurrection that Life is found when we become dis-tracked. When we are dis-tracked, help us land softly and see the new life that awaits us there instead of despair. Help us embrace distraction so that we may see what you have in store for us.