After reading my first Harry Potter book, I wished I could have been a wizard and gone to Hogwarts. My favorite line from all the books is from Dumbledore, "I make mistakes like the next man. Being rather cleverer than others, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger." If I am being sincere, this is the only way I resemble any wizard from the series because I, like Dumbledore, am clever and do some incredible things. I like to dream big and go for it. But, when I go big and make a mistake, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly more enormous. I have epic failures. So sad. So true. Here is an example of my epic failure of attention.
At one of my places of work, I was asked to take over a significant leadership role temporarily. I was not sure about taking on such ginormous responsibilities. Still, after talking with individuals in the head office and with my husband, and after prayer, I decided to leap. I did not need this job, as I already had a perfectly good one. If I did not like this new one or things were not working out, no big deal; I could return to my previous position. I clearly remember thinking, "I will just give this a whirl. The worst that could happen is that I cannot do the job. No problem, I do not need it, and I can return to my other one."
As the year progressed, I was miserable in the new job -- even though I would not admit it. I stressed out, not sleeping, working from early in the morning till well after 6:00 p.m. most days, and handling it all by eating my way through the year. Not brilliant.
When it came time to apply for the permanent position, I wish I could have said I prayed to God and asked God if I should apply for the job, but I did not. Deep down, I did not want to apply; however, there were other issues now at play, and the only way I saw out was to apply and hopefully keep the job. Not clever.
On numerous occasions, God tried to get me to re-focus and provided multiple warning signs to get my attention to get me off the path I was following. My favorite was from an individual who asked me, in front of a group of people, "Do you even want this job?" I feebly replied, "Yes." He could see I was miserable. It was apparent I was not happy, and he saw it and was concerned. I just continued to plod down the same path. I was hell-bent on finding a way out of the other issues at play and was determined to control the situation. Not brilliant. Not clever.
In a story that could not be made up but is too long to tell here, I did not get the job. And, of course, it was not a simple "no" but a twisted tale of lies, backstabbing, ugliness, and betrayal. It was an epic failure. I went down in a blaze for all to see, and I went down hard and fast. All of which could have been avoided if I had paid attention to God instead of focusing on my circumstances and trying to find, by myself, a way out.
In the bible, there are stories of others who moved their attention from God to somewhere else. Let us take a look at Samson and David. First, in Judges 13-16, we have Samson. Samson was the last of the major judges of Israel, and he was dedicated to God from birth as a Nazirite. "Nazirite" comes from a Hebrew word meaning "to separate." If a person was a Nazirite, then they were set apart for the honor and glory of God, and the individual was to separate him or herself from certain things such as:
- abstaining from anything related to grapes and alcohol
- refraining from cutting one's hair
- avoiding dead people, even deceased family members (Number 6:1-12)
Not only was Samson a Nazirite, but God had destined him, before his birth, with a specific purpose to fulfill. That purpose was to defeat the Philistines. The Philistines had been a thorn in Israel's side ever since the Hebrew people entered the promised land of Canaan. It was one of Israel's epic failures as they diverted their attention and actions from God by not driving all of the original inhabitants out of the land, as God had told them to do. After years of suffering, God sent Samson to deal with the problem.
In Judges 13-15, we learn a lot about Samson and see his victories and times of struggle - when his focus strayed from God. When we come to Judges 16, Samson has his epic failure of attention. Samson diverts his attention from God and places his heart (or attention) on Delilah. Samson puts pleasing Delilah before pleasing God. If Samson had kept his focus on God, then he would have never been with Delilah in the first place, and then he would not have been betrayed by her and delivered into the hands of the Philistines.
Samson diverted his attention so thoroughly from God that he shared the secret of his strength with Delilah, and the Philistines used that knowledge to remove his power and capture him. Once Samson was captured, the Philistines gouged out his eyes, and ultimately he lost his life. However, Samson cried out to God before his death, asking God to remember him and give him strength one last time to destroy the Philistines. God, with all of God's grace, remembers Samson and gives him one last bout of power, and the enemy is destroyed. Samson fulfills his God-given purpose.
Moving on to David, 1 Samuel 16:18 says of him, "...the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him." (ESV) "The Lord is with him," those are powerful words that speak to the depth of who David truly was when he was at his best. This helps point to why his name is mentioned so many times in the bible. The only person mentioned more is Jesus. That is a remarkable tribute to David. Unfortunately, for all of the truly amazing and God-honoring things he did, for he was clever, his mistakes were correspondingly huger, and he, too, had an epic failure of attention.
It was springtime, and for reasons we are not told, (1) David did not go to war with his troops. It was unusual during this time; kings always went to war with their troops. (2) He used another man's wife (Bathsheba). (3) She became pregnant, and David tried to hide sin. (4) When that did not work, David killed Bathsheba's husband on the battlefield to cover his disgrace. Trying to cover his disgrace did not work; it could not work, as God had chosen David to be king and set him apart. As king, David could not hide anything, and thus his correspondingly huger mistakes were made known. Talk about epic failures of attention. None of these things would have happened if David's heart was focused on God in the first place. Eventually, David did repent of his sins and cried out to God. And God, once again, with His never-ending grace and mercy, took away David's sin. (2 Samuel 12:13) Yet, the consequences of David's actions remained.
Have you ever had an epic failure of attention? A situation where you moved your eyes from God and God's ways, and that lack of focus cost you more than you could have ever imagined? Are you currently dealing with the consequences of an epic failure of attention? Pause and consider these questions for a moment.
If you have not already forgiven yourself, do so. More importantly, ask for God's forgiveness. Ask for God's help to learn from this epic failure so it will not be repeated. As a result of my epic failure of attention, I try to always ask myself in every situation, decision, and choice I have, "What does God want of me and for me?" Also, I have put bible verses in my phone and set them as reminders that pop up on various days of the week so I can help myself remember to focus on God with what I am doing at that particular moment. It is amazing the transformation that can occur when you seek forgiveness, continually seek what God wants for and of you, and by having scripture "pop" into your life throughout the day. God's grace and mercy are ever-flowing and ever-sufficient.
We should strive for our attention to God to be ever-flowing as well. In next week's blog, the third and final installment on attention, I will discuss forms of distraction, things that frequently cause us to lose attention, and how we can overcome these with God's help so we will never have to have an epic failure of attention again.
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