When Nora Beth was a handful of months old, she developed an affinity for glasses… and a death grip. She latched on to my emergency pair of glasses one morning and laughed while she pulled them aggressively. For another handful of months I dealt with the wonky, ill-fitting specs. They didn’t leave me blinded, but were awkward enough to capture my attention. Finally, the injured arm fell off, and for about a month now I’ve been wearing them at night with a missing arm. I mean, they fit on my face, but only if I keep my head perfectly straight and looking forward, and if I constantly readjust them. It’s been totally fine, but my nightly reading has been cut maybe in half because they’re so dang distracting, and without them I can’t see anything. I’m also too cheap and perceivably too busy to deal with fixing them. It’s the kind of thing (like the oil in my car) that I keep thinking will fix itself if I give it enough time.
Here’s the thing I’m learning right now… the most dangerous separations I feel from God don’t happen through major catastrophes. Instead, those epically awful disasters somehow serve as catalysts causing me to recognize the Lord in some way – even if I’m just questioning Him angrily about the why, though more often I’m clinging to Him with conviction and desperation. What really serves to drive me away from the Lord is those little distractions. When the arm of my glasses fell off, I didn’t stop reading immediately. The first week, it wasn’t overly irritating to constantly adjust my glasses, but the next week I just didn’t have as much energy to do it, and the next, it wasn’t that big of a deal to shave even more time off, and now, here I sit in my contacts, not reading at all.
Granted, if I were upstairs reading in bed right now it would be some fluffy piece of fiction, so I can’t act like this specific example is much of a distraction from my devotion time, but I have found that the mundane incidents that may make a list of grievances to fill a text to a friend seem too small and petty to bring before the Father (particularly in the face of “real” issues assailing so many others). And the deep, intimate dialogue that flows in the throes of grief, brokenheartedness, fear, or doubt just sort of piddles away to a great big silence.
In my marriage, we can usually identify when we’ve entered a dangerously ambivalent tense season together when our daily conversations consist of some slight variation of, “Hi! How was your day?” “Good! Long and busy, but good. How about yours?” “Yeah, same.” “Great, wanna watch Blacklist or Good Wife tonight?” “Either one. I’ll be wearing my freaking one armed eyeglasses again. So. Whichever looks best crooked.”
The daily distractions of life seem at once too large and too menial to report, so it’s easier just to wade through them and try and find another way to rejuvenate our spirits alone. And it’s right there in that juxtaposition that I think the enemy lies in wait most eagerly. See, he’s masterful. He’s clever and conniving and dangerous because of his lulling strategy. We would all be named Job (well, these days, we would all be Joblen or Joblyn or something ridiculous) if he assaulted us too catastrophically, too often. Instead, he calculates a steady stream of distractions – sluggish wifi connections, a broken garage door, a fender bender, a late paying client, an HVAC repair… the mundane “life stuff,” that serves to clog the pipes of communication with the Lord. Because how bizarre does it feel to posture at the feet of the Divine Creator and beseechingly cry out, “Lord, I need you to miraculously heal my pipes in Your heavenly mercy.”? Instead, it’s sort of like, “Dear God, thank you for all the blessings You’ve given me today. Pardon and forgive my sins… and ummm… please be with all the other stuff… and, whoops, it’s morning, I guess I fell asleep. Amen.”
I don’t want to overspiritualize household inconveniences that are part of being a person (I mean, I don’t think running out of toilet paper at an inopportune moment is caused by the depravity of the human condition), but I do want to call to attention that a large enough pile of nearly weightless tiny feathers will eventually weigh a thousand pounds and crush us, if we take our eyes off of them for too long, just as a thousand seemingly harmless distractions can eventually lead to forgetfulness and silence.
The distractions won’t stop… they’re hyperbolically the water torture treatment keeping us longing for eternity… but their devastation on our faith can be minimized when we stop letting ourselves be entangled in the enemy’s snares. The good news is that each of those thousand pound feathers is light enough to be blown off the pile before it reaches critical mass.