We’ve all heard about the dangers of distracted driving, but what about distracted living? Have you ever thought about the dangers of that? As a champion multi-tasker, it’s one of my constant challenges, but sometimes it requires a bit of a jolt to get my attention.
That jolt came for me a few weeks ago as I was driving back from a youth drama class that I was teaching. The class was held in a church about an hour away from my home and as I pulled out of the parking lot, in typical multi-tasker fashion, I decided that it would be a good idea to catch up with a dear friend living out of state as I drove along. I punched her number into the phone and soon after made my way onto the expressway.
As we chatted away, catching up on our lives, I noticed that my GPS was trying to talk to me, and it kept telling me to get off at the next exit. But having driven this same route before, I happened to remember how on some occasions the GPS had told me to get off of the expressway only to have me get right back on again a few miles up the road. A meaningless detour. So despite my GPS’ incessant pleading for me to get off at every exit I passed, I continued driving along and chatting to my friend, confident that I knew where I was going.
It wasn’t until I hung up the phone a good 45+ minutes later that I noticed a sign saying “Morrow County.” Morrow County? How could that be? I was supposed to be close to home by now, and having been to Morrow County on a couple of occasions with my storytelling work, I knew that it was nearly 2 hours from my home! That’s when it hit me! I had spent the last 45+ minutes driving in the wrong direction. I had gotten on the expressway going south instead of north. So now I was not 15 minutes from home, I was about 2 hours from home!
This time I did obey the GPS and got off at the nearest exit (which didn’t come for miles!) and turned myself around. I felt a mixture of anger, frustration and sadness at the impending drive before me after an already long day, but more than anything I felt mad at myself for being so stupid. It was almost embarrassing having to call my husband and tell him that I would no longer be home at 5pm, but 7pm instead. And of course, it was even more shameful when he asked me, “What happened? Didn’t you follow the GPS?”
For the next two hours, I thought about my own stupidity (I mean you would have thought that after 45 minutes of the GPS asking me to get off that I might have at least stopped to consider the suggestion!) But more than that I felt like there was a greater lesson to be learned. It was as if I could hear God saying to me, “How many times do you do the same thing to Me? Maybe I’d like to give you some direction or let you know that you’re headed in the wrong direction, but sometimes you’re so distracted that you can’t even hear Me.”
And it’s true. A lot of times I get so set on all that I’m doing that I don’t take time to stop and listen. I’m moving so fast and doing so many things at once that it never even occurs to me to consider if I’m moving in the right direction or not. Our culture has fed us the lie that more is better — more stuff, more activity, more all at once. Our enemy must smile just thinking about it — because he knows if he can get us so wrapped up in just moving and keep our eyes off of the direction we’re moving in, then he has won the battle.
In college I had a quote by Socrates posted to the bulletin board above my desk. It said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This was my reminder to not get so wrapped up in college life that I didn’t stop to ask myself: “Is this who I want to be? Is this what I want to be doing?” It was a reminder to pause. To reflect. To look and listen. Not to let life pass me by without considering how I was living it.
As you can see from my story above, I still need that reminder. And in a world that keeps us all spinning faster and faster, I think we all do. I hope you will not deduce from this post that I think all activity or even all multi-tasking is bad (although believe me, there truly is something to be said for single-minded focus!) Instead, I hope you will recognize the dangers of going full-speed ahead in the direction that you believe is best, distracted by a myriad of tasks and responsibilities, without ever once stopping to listen to your internal GPS, the Holy Spirit. Don’t do what I did and ignore His voice telling me to turn around because I was too distracted by another conversation to pay Him any mind. Rather think about the things that distract you and see which of those you might lay aside to be able to listen better.
You can be sure that I learned my lesson that day. After turning around and heading for home (in the right direction this time!), other than calling my husband to tell him I’d be late, I kept my phone turned off. I wanted to hear the GPS, see the signs, and be sure that I didn’t set myself up for any more lengthy detours. I’m still working this out in my day to day life, but I do know one thing — I don’t want the Holy Spirit to have to compete for my attention. I don’t want to be engaged in distracted living.