The old Roman road next to the remains of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Living for a day that may never come

Creative people are easily distracted. I’m speaking from personal experience. I can have every intention of focusing on one particular thing, and then I see something else (something shiny) and my whole focus goes out the window. And before I know it, I’m off on some rabbit trail that leads me around in circles, and I can’t even remember what I had intended to finish in the first place. Some people are born with focus in their DNA (like engineers), but for others, focus has to be learned and practiced.

The old Roman road next to the remains of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

The old Roman road next to the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Proverbs 4:25-27.

Look straight ahead,
    and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
    stay on the safe path.
Don’t get sidetracked;
    keep your feet from following evil.

The practicality of the Bible always amazes me. It shouldn’t by now, but I think I’m just awed that God cares about our daily lives so much that He would include things like this. It’s good advice.

How often do we get sidetracked? How often do we wander off the obvious road to try to make it down a path we think is better? How often does our gaze deviate from where we should be looking? I hate to admit it, but for me, the answer is frequently.

I don’t have much trouble with looking back, honestly. I try not to live with regrets, but when it comes to looking forward, I tend to look sideways. I focus on what’s way out in front of me rather than what’s straight ahead. I focus on what I think is coming ten years down the road instead of what’s coming tomorrow. And that’s not necessarily bad, but when you live your life planning for ten years from now, the things that are happening today don’t get done.

We all have opportunities in our lives. I’m sure all of us will have opportunities in our lives ten years from now too, but opportunities ten years from now will be shaped by how you handle the opportunities at your feet today. You can’t plan for what’s coming on the other side of the hill because you can’t see it yet.

Instead, focus on what’s right at your feet. Focus on what you can do today. Maybe it’s not as much fun. Maybe it’s not as glamorous. But if it’s in your path, it’s for you to accomplish, and you’ll learn something from it. Make the choice to deal with what’s in front of you before you start daydreaming about ten years down the road.

I’m not saying to forget about the future. That’s foolish. Planning for the future is wise. But there’s a big difference between planning for what might happen and living your life as though you know what will happen. The future matters, but today matters more because today is the foundation of tomorrow.

So stay on the road. Walk straight. Keep moving forward. Don’t get distracted. You’ll get over the hill to the other side eventually, but when you first see the hill you’re not ready for it. You’ve got to deal with the obstacles in your path first. Then, you’ll be ready to face what’s on the other side.

None of us know the future. We can assume certain things will happen, and we can dream, for sure. But living for the future doesn’t help you with today. And if you live for a day that may never come, what has your life been about?

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Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Get your head out of yesterday

I don’t run. I’m not built for it. My body tends to revolt against me whenever I try, but I have a lot of friends who run. And they don’t just run; they compete. These folks do triathlons and marathons and all sorts of other forms of torture like that. And one thing that I have noticed when you’re running is that you really need to keep your focus on what’s in front of you, otherwise you could run into trouble … literally.

I’ve never seen a runner trying to compete by running forward and looking backward. I’m sure people do it because people are strange, but I’d be willing to bet, they don’t run well. Because even if you find a way to look backward as you’re running forward, your focus won’t be where it needs to be–on the goal.

I’m also reminded of a line from an older movie, Gumball Rally, an old racing movie we used to watch with my dad. It was a movie about racing. All these different people in all kinds of different cars had to race from coast to coast, regardless of the legality of their actions, and one of the racers was this Italian guy who ripped the rearview mirror off the car windshield and tossed it in the backseat, proclaiming: “What’s behind me is not important!”

These people race. They’re moving forward toward a goal. Looking behind and focusing on where they’ve been will only slow them down and make them unhappy in most cases. And in all honesty, following Christ is very much the same.

 

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:12-14.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

We all came from somewhere. Some Christ-followers came from Christian homes; some didn’t. Some have come from a legacy of people who always loved God; some didn’t.  But no matter where we started, God is moving us somewhere else, sometimes physically, always spiritually. We’re all moving forward, and if we look backward, we’re going to slow down or we’re going to hamper the efforts that are going on around us.

Paul was majorly into sports from what we can tell from Scripture. He talks about running and racing and fighting and wrestling, and actually there are a lot of comparisons between the Christian life and sports. Sports require training. They require focus. They require pushing yourself to achieve something you’re pretty sure you aren’t able to achieve. They require teamwork most of the time. The Christian life isn’t a competition, though, but the other similarities are kind of cool.

And in this case, running is a great example because all of us are runners. If you follow Christ, you’re in a race. You’re not competing against anyone. It’s like a marathon or a triathlon, and Christ has already run the race and won. So the rest of us are competing against ourselves really, and it’s our goal to finish. And you can’t finish the race in front of you if you can’t get your eyes of what’s behind you.

The past is important. Don’t get me wrong. In some cases, it is important to remember the past. We need to remember where we’ve been and recognize what God wants us to learn from where we’ve been, but you can’t focus on yesterday. What’s done is done and can’t be changed; what can change is how you react to it.

I know people who bury themselves in the past. They forget about today and don’t even consider tomorrow, and all they can talk about is what happened before. Where they used to be. What they used to do. And living today is torture for them because all their focus is on yesterday, and they can’t handle the stress of right now or the implications of what might happen tomorrow because they can’t get their heads out of yesterday. And they’re miserable for it.

So what does this mean for us in 2013? Stop living life in a rearview mirror. Stop looking backward to find happiness and contentment in yesterday and start looking forward to what’s coming. Yes, what’s coming is unknown. What’s coming might not be fun at all. But it’s very likely that you’re already prepared for what’s coming, whether you know it or not. You probably experienced yesterday what you needed to know for today and for tomorrow. That’s what yesterday is for.

Learning.

You can learn from yesterday. Just don’t live there.

God sets our paths. He doesn’t let us run alone. And He always provides exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

Keep your eyes forward and run. Don’t worry about the other runners; they’ll handle themselves. Don’t worry about the road behind you; it’s past. Don’t worry about the road ahead of you; take it a day at a time.