“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
One of the scripture readings at Bethany Lutheran Church yesterday came from Luke 12:13-15:
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15Then He said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The message dealt with covetousness, but Pastor Rev. Tim Bohlmann spoke first about distraction. You, see, Jesus had been having a conversation, and ‘someone in the crowd’ had interrupted him.
How many times has this happened to you? You’re having a face-to-face conversation, and a phone rings or dings or vibrates, and one of you takes the call or checks the text or email or tweet. Of course, technology-related interruptions are easily handled: turn off the phone and let messages go to voicemail or inbox. But what about others like children interrupting parents’ conversations – “Dad, Dad, Dad,” or “Mom, Mom, Mom” – as had been the case for the pastor and his wife.
They devised an ingenious solution to this distraction. When the children wanted to tell their parents something and their parents were having a conversation with someone else, the children put their hands on their parent’s hip. The pastor could feel his child’s hand and know he or she wanted to speak with him but would continue the conversation without interruption. Sometimes that hand stayed there for 5 or 10 minutes until the conversation ended. But the child knew he or she would have Dad’s would full attention if he or she waited, and full attention was worth waiting for.
How many of us would like someone’s full attention? I certainly would. And so, as I sat in church yesterday morning, I thought, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I turned each distraction into a hand and put it on my hip: my phone appointment with my daughter Jessica later that afternoon, my son David’s 30th birthday coming up this month, my son Alex’s break-through on his writing project, lunch and grocery shopping with Keith after the service, new information about the scene I’m writing, getting back in time for the dogs… I’d like to say that I gave my full attention to the message, but I am no saint, and many hands, like centrifugal forces, pull me off center all too easily.
Conversation with God comes first, our pastor said, then family and then work – that’s the priority, and after that, material things matter little. Uninterrupted conversation is how we remain whole and balanced and strong in the midst of life’s whirling distractions.