A month ago, I wrote this post about shifting focus onto Jesus. Why do we want to focus more on Jesus? Because in discovering how to continually draw close to God, we learn how to let go of control which helps us to worry less and to love more. And now I start fulfilling my commitment to you on how to do it. Well, on some ways I've found to do it. :)
Lent starts Today!
It’s significant that this post lands on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Perhaps you don’t pay much attention to Lent. And that’s okay. Lent marks the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness and perhaps more significantly, as we journey through this season, we begin to appreciate with greater understanding the gift of Jesus' death. I love Lent as it helps me shift my focus. By choosing to be intentional in fasting, taking up a new spiritual practice, and reading specific Lenten resources, I find my focus shifts. A little. And a little is good enough1.
A Trouble-Free Life
I was thrilled to read Tiffany’s post of a few days ago where she wrote about shifting her focus towards a calling she believes God has put on her heart. She took her eyes off worrying about how her husband might react and turned them to her calling.
I think all of us can relate to that conundrum. Out of fear of upsetting our spouse and/or homelife, we elect to choose the safe option. I get that. I’ve lived like that most of my married life. And please don’t get me wrong, sometimes (maybe often) God will guide us to choose that safer option.
But God wants all of us. His love for us is so deep and intense, it is better than life as David says in Psalm 63. He knew it from personal experience. God knows our marriage, He’s all over it. And in always choosing the safer option as I’ve mostly done, I’m not sure it’s drawn my wife closer to meeting Jesus. Because when I've done that perhaps I’ve chosen her and my marriage over God.
I’ve come to realise God can handle our marriage and my spouse. We need to intentionally hand both over to Him in the process of shifting our focus towards Him.
In doing so, does it mean our spouses will soon discover Jesus? Possibly not? But it’s not ours to control. It’s God’s. Does it mean our troubles suddenly disappear? Possibly not. God will walk with us through each and every one of them. Because He can’t help Himself not too. It’s our choice whether to keep holding onto Him through the trouble.
Meditating on the Word
For many years of my life as a believer, I’ve been more a ‘devotional’ reader of the Word. I’ll grab a handful of verses each day, read a Psalm and then move onto my day. But I’m realising I’m limiting its power. The Word is alive, it’s living. That’s one of the many mysterious aspects of following Jesus. And Jesus is in it. He is the Word.
Learning to meditate on the Word shifts our focus. Why? For many reasons, but I’ll just share one. Because we invite God into reading it with us. And wow, it then gets really exciting.
I’m not going to say anymore other than to lead us in a little exercise. I did this yesterday and found it so powerful and know I should share it. Bill Gaultiere was the one who led me through it (well his book did2)
Here we go. We’re going to read Matthew 11:25-30. Three times. Three times slowly. And after each time you’re going to ask yourself a different question. Bill suggests you give 30 minutes for the exercise. Maybe you can't do this now. May I encourage you to set aside some time to do it in the next few days. Save it up for the weekend.
Here’s the passage. Bill used the Message version so I’ll do that too.
“Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”
Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Questions to Mediate Upon (perhaps write your responses)
- After 1st reading: What is one word or phrase that shimmered or stood out to you? Meditate on it.
- 2nd reading: Enter into the passage. What do you feel? Is there a specific situation in your life today that relates? Why not pray about it? Ask God about it.
- 3rd reading: Do you sense God inviting you to something specific? Write it down and pray about it with God. Wait on Him to speak to you. Or simply rest quietly with God.
That’s it. How do you feel? Perhaps we can share some of our thoughts in the comments.
BTW, this form of Bible reading is known as Lectio Divina which is simply Latin for ‘Divine Reading’. It’s not supposed to replace one’s standard Bible reading rather complement it. It’s not something we need to do every day, but perhaps it might be a new practice some of us might like to introduce, gently move towards.
I’ll be back next time with another shift enabling practice. Remember, little by little. As Kate Bowler says, ‘good enough’ is well, good enough.
Grace and peace, my friends.
1. We place too much pressure on ourselves to be the best at everything, to control and we get disappointed when we miss the mark or don’t grow in our relationship with God, our spouse or our children. Kate Bowler in her little book is teaching me how to simply be ‘good enough’. It’s what I’m reading for Lent. 2. Bill Gaultiere, “Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke’, Soul Shepherding.org, 2016.