The Lesson in Distraction

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I recall an incident a few years ago in which I was driving down the road. Everything was going smoothly, I’m a pretty good driver, until I happened to see a massive buck standing on the opposite side of the road. He was beautiful, the sun shining on him turned his fur golden and as a nature photographer I was thinking to myself, ‘That would be an incredible picture’. However, I wasn’t watching where I was driving and at the last possible second I saw I was headed for a deep ditch. I immediately yanked my steering wheel and pulled back up onto the road. That scared me so much I pulled into a parking lot, down the street, and sat for a few seconds imagining what would have happened if I hadn’t regained my senses!

I’ve been going through a lot of difficult times lately but my faith in God has helped me keep my perspective. I read my Bible every day, pray and trust He is going to work everything out. I am driving along smoothly until I get distracted. Unfortunately, yesterday, I had a huge meltdown–a pity party–and ended up spending the day in tears and feeling absolutely miserable. Toward the end of the day, God reminded me I was being a huge Peter.

In Matthew 14 we read about two events. The first event was Jesus feeding over 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. The disciples witnessed this miraculous event and when all was said and done, the people “all ate and were satisfied” and they had twelve baskets of leftovers. After this, Jesus sent the disciples off in a boat and instructed them to go to the other side of the lake. They obeyed and set off. Later in the night it tells us in Matthew 14:24 the boat was “already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” Some of the disciples were experienced seamen and were fighting to keep the boat afloat. Shortly before dawn, it says, Jesus went out to them walking on the lake. When the men saw him they were terrified and cried out in fear, “Its a ghost!”

Jesus immediately seeks to put their fears to rest and says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Now, here is where Peter comes into play. He says, “If you’re really Jesus tell me to join you on the water” and Jesus says, “Come on!”

Peter jumps over the side of the boat, keeping his eyes on Jesus, and actually starts walking on the water! But, when he is distracted by the towering waves and the roar of the wind he takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink. His first instinct is to cry out, “Lord, save me!”

This is the same Peter who had hours before witnessed an incredible miracle performed by Jesus. He should have known to keep his eyes on the Lord but instead he was looking at the turmoil around him and instead of remaining on top of the water, he was overcome by it. Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter and rebuked him. “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

In the midst of all my trials, when I keep my eyes and my faith in Jesus and remember everything he has already done for me, I can walk on the water of discouragement and depression and overcome the waves which would overtake me. When I become distracted by the seeming impossibilities of my situation, that’s when I begin to sink and fall into despair. Jesus asks me, “Why did you doubt?” as he takes my hand and lifts me back up on top of the water where I can walk with him instead of letting me slip beneath the waves.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and don’t be a Peter. Don’t become distracted by everything in life around you that would drag you into a ditch or beneath the waves. Remember everything he has already done for you and have faith–you will remain on top of the water and not sink.

 

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How Quickly We Forget

Luke 2:33 “The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.”

Has something utterly amazing happened in your life and at the moment it occurred you experienced overwhelming joy and happiness? How long did it take for the feeling to fade away? When a new challenge presented itself in your life and you forgot about the awesome event you experienced?

Mary and Joseph were no different than we are. Here were two individuals, each approached by the angel Gabriel, and told the most incredible news–they would be the parents and caretaker of the anticipated Messiah. In Luke 1:46-55, Mary proclaims her astonishment and wonder that God has chosen her, above all women, to be the mother of the Messiah. Joseph is struggling with the fact of Mary’s pregnancy but when Gabriel approaches him and tells him she is pregnant with the savior of the world he immediately embraces the responsibility of being the earthly father of our Lord. How much more amazing can that be? Yet, we see throughout the story of Jesus’ life with his parents they forgot who they were raising.

Just a month or so after Jesus’ birth, they went to Jerusalem for the rite of purification required of all Jewish women who have given birth. An elderly man, named Simeon, approaches them as they enter the temple courtyard. God had promised he wouldn’t die until he saw the redeemer of Israel. Simeon takes the infant Jesus into his arms and proclaims wondrous things about him–he will cause many to rise and fall in Israel, he will be the sign Jewish people will reject because he doesn’t fit their ideal of a Messiah, and because of her son Mary’s heart will be pierced as if with a sword.

The account in Luke does not tell us Mary and Joseph just accepted Simeon’s words with a knowing understanding. No, it says they were “amazed, or marveled, by all they heard”. Two people, visited by an angel, told specifically they would be the parents of the promised Messiah of Israel and they “marveled” at the things they heard. How quickly they forgot the divine and holy nature of the birth of their son. Just a few months old and, to them, he was just a baby boy born under fantastic circumstances. Throughout his life, we see how many times his mother in particular forgets her son is not like other young men: When he is “lost” in Jerusalem in a discourse with priests about his Father, God, and when she goes with his brothers and begs him to stop his ministry because she has heard rumors about plots against his life. The very miracle of the Virgin Birth is a shadow in her past–how quickly she has forgotten whose son he truly is.

During this Christmas season let’s reflect on the miracles God has performed in our lives and consider how quickly their impact has faded into the memories of our past. We can read the story of Mary and Joseph, from a distance, and see the full scope but we can also look at our own lives and contemplate the meaning. How often have we forgotten what God has done? How can we incorporate the blessings in our lives to make a positive change in the lives of others? Let us remember, during this season of joy, the true and divine gift given to us and let us not forget the One who sent him.