I stood at the edge of the outdoor track waiting for my daughter’s race to begin. A sea of purple shirts gathered at the starting line, moving into their assigned lanes. I glanced at my phone, quickly reading a work text, mulling over a response, and then switching back to camera mode. I flipped to video and looked for my daughter. Ah, there she was—lane three. I zoomed in and waited for the race to begin—proud of myself that I was being such a present parent.
A commotion broke out at the finish line as the event ahead of my daughter’s concluded. Perfect. Just the time I needed to reply to the message on my phone. I hurriedly tapped out a response and hit “send” just as my daughter’s race was about to begin. Thankfully, I was able to video the whole thing—but it was only after she had crossed the finish line that I realized my unfortunate mistake. I had filmed the wrong child! Somehow in the swapping back and forth between my work duties and being a good cheerleader track mom, there’d been a lane reassignment. My daughter had moved to another lane while I was typing away. And now I had videoed someone else’s kid!
Awesome. Distracted mom syndrome had struck yet again.
LEARNING to Be A More Present Parent
How many times throughout our day do we allow ourselves to become derailed, giving preference to something else other than the task we should be focusing on? If you’ve ever tried to do more than one thing at a time, you know the answer already: one time too many. We are distractible people—quick to look to other things when our current task is too monotonous, too hard, or too whatever.
And not only are we easy prey to distraction’s ways, but we can be fickle in our tendencies—hopping from one thing to another to avoid boredom or responsibility. Or if you’re like me, trying to jam yet one more task into the available time frame, and finding yourself concentrating on other things, rather than focusing on the living breathing people right in front of you.
Losing Track of What Is Most Important
It would be easy to look at all the gizmos and gadgets of our day and point a finger of blame. But it’s not just technology and social media that move us off course. There’s procrastination, fear, insecurity, comparison, worry, the art of avoidance, and the list goes on. The things we allow ourselves to be pulled away and enticed by is endless, keeping us from fixing our time and attention on what matters most: our faith, our families, and the callings God has put on our hearts. And when we’re pulled in a million different directions, it’s easy to lose track of what’s most important.
The truth is, the enemy of our souls knows exactly how to lure each one of us away from the path we should be headed down. He knows what will magnetize our minds and keep us from doing what we know we should—for he’s the father of lies. He makes busyness and all the flashing lights look oh so good. Desirable. Needed in the moment.
Listening to the Warnings of Distraction
On its own, responding to a text and trying to fit in one more work task doesn’t seem like a sinful thing. It probably seems resourceful and efficient. Responsible—like I was using my time wisely while waiting for my daughter’s race to begin, right? But what I didn’t tell you was that I had a check in my spirit—a warning to wait and respond later. And what did I do? I opted to ignore the prompting telling me to be a present parent. The Holy Spirit was pressing me to do something and I flat out chose to ignore it. Like Scripture warns us: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). I knew what God was asking me to do, but I didn’t want to listen.
Most of the time, races cannot be repeated nor memories fully recreated. You had better believe that every track meet after that I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I thought of that lost opportunity—the race I had missed. Yes, my daughter was understanding when I explained why I couldn’t show her a replay of the event, and was incredibly gracious in forgiving me—then laughing hysterically at my blunder. But my heart still desperately wished I could go back to the beginning of the meet and start the afternoon over again.
Thankfully, We Serve a God of Grace and Second Chances
Thankfully we serve a loving God. A God of second, and third, and fourth chances. He doesn’t hold it against us when we mess up and allow obstacles to get in our way. His faithfulness is unfailing and His mercies are new every morning, giving us fresh opportunities to push aside the lesser and choose what is lasting.
What things have you allowed to get in the way of serving God and loving others?
TakE Inventory of The Obstacles To Being a Present Parent
One of the ways we can unearth our biggest distractions is to look at where we are putting the majority of our time and energy. How do we spend those fringe moments throughout the day? What fills our minds and our inboxes? And what is the cost? What or who might be getting pushed aside in favor of something else? What do our actions say to our friends and families? Can they tell what is most important in our lives? All of these questions help us do a sifting of sorts—an inventory of what matters most. Because what controls our minds, controls our schedule; and what controls our schedule, can shape our future.
Maybe for you, your biggest distraction is a physical one, like a phone or laptop. Maybe you’re scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed when you know you should be focused on your people, or a particular task God has given you. Or maybe it’s not connected to technology or social media at all. Maybe it’s the thoughts you’ve allowed to take over your mind, welcoming in dangerous seeds of discontentment. Maybe it’s worry, or fear. Maybe it’s those areas of your heart that you’ve roped off and refused to give over to the Lord. Just like each one of us is not a clone of the other, the distractions in our lives are not going to be identical. We serve an amazing God and our differences and unique bents only proclaim His creativity in making each one of us so distinctive.
Pay Attention to Your Personal Distractions
Whatever is pulling at your heart and urging you away from what you know you should be focused on, pay attention to that. Acknowledge the threat that distraction poses. And then choose to replace that distraction with something of substance—like time in the Word, time in prayer, time with your friends and family, or time helping others. You will never regret time well spent, digging deep into the principles and promises of God’s Word and then looking for ways to live out those Words of wisdom.
We don’t want to miss out on those important, or even not-so-important moments. For in each season and stage of life, we have the opportunity to see the fingerprints of our God—a God who is constantly looking for ways to love us and draw us to Himself. But we have a choice. And when it comes to pushing aside distraction, we have to want to see beyond it—to seek His righteousness above our right-ness, to trust His plans over our well thought-out agenda, and to desire His best and His timing over our own.
What Will You Choose In This Moment?
As these eternal perspectives trickle their way into our hearts and our lives, I can’t help but think it will make these daily decisions of: “What will I choose in this moment,” all the more clear. It’s never too late to take hold of what’s most important—and today is a great day to start.
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