Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Power of Distraction

Psalm 119:15: "I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. "

When I was in 7th grade, I was a champion 200-yard dash sprinter. I was ranked high in my class, and I felt good about myself. As the end of the track season approached, I ended up qualifying for the state track meet to compete and run against other 7th graders in the state, in the 200-yard dash. To prepare, I met with my coach every day after school; I trained: ran, lifted weights, did calisthenics, etc. I spent every day practicing, training and soaking up what my coach taught me about track-and-field.

I remember being overly confident the day of the state track meet. When it was my turn to race, I walked over to my coach, laced up my new Payless Shoe store ProWings (that's all I could afford back in the day), and tucked my red and white school t-shirt inside of my apple red track shorts. I was calm, overly confident and already envisioning myself with a 1st place ribbon. After lacing up my shoes, I stood in front of my coach smacking my favorite flavor of Bubble Yum bubble gum (grape) and twirling the Strawberry Shortcake barrette clipped to my ponytail. I had a swagger in my stance. "Alright coach," I said. "What should I do?" My coach had a lot of confidence in me. He knew I could win every race I competed in. He encouraged me and told me exactly what to do to win. "Terri," he said. "When the starter gun goes off, stay low out of the blocks, pick up speed as fast as you can and then sprint hard to the finish line. Remember your technique." After blowing a few bubbles as I listened intently to my coaches prompting, I said, "Okay coach. I got this."

The 200-yard dash was about to begin and I was perfectly positioned at the starting line. To my right was an old friend of mine who attended school in another city. As the other racers began setting up for the race, my friend leaned into me. "Terri," she whispered. "Everybody knows you're gonna win this race. You should give everybody a head start and start jogging when the gun goes off. We know you're gonna win anyway but at least give us a chance." My friend's suggestion spoke to my pride and I soberly planned to oblige.

You could have heard a pin drop around the stadium as we got into position for the race. The announcer made his call: "On your mark...get set..." [bang!] When the sound of the gun's blank ricocheted in the afternoon air, we took off. The racers around me immediately honed in on their technique and began sprinting toward the finish line. I, on the other hand, started the race in a mild jog... as if it were beneath me to sprint like the other runners. All I could think about was the challenge my friend gave to me about "giving the other runners a chance." But, what I didn't realize was that my so-called friend was actually baiting me. Needless to say, as I jogged out of the starting blocks, the other racers sprinted ahead of me. By the time I tried to pick up speed, it was too late. I came in last place. The look on my coaches face was one of complete shock. "What happened?!" He shouted. "Why did you jog? What happened to your form? What happened to your technique? What about the training and everything I taught you for this very moment? You could have won if you had of stuck to and remembered the plan." Back then, I was ashamed and embarrassed for losing that race. I quit track-and-field after that, and didn't learn the lesson from that incident until recently.

This life is essentially one big track meet. It's a race. How many times have we walked with God, trained with Him, read His word, prayed, worshiped, communed in relationship, delighted in Him, etc. only to get to the race (bad day, not enough time, fight, lack of finances, discouraged, broken...) and be distracted - forgetting everything we learned in training? The enemy would love to see us distracted and completely caught off-guard like I was in that race back in 7th grade. He wants us to be unfocused and irrational. The enemy doesn't want us to be successful, so he'll distract us with ideas and positions that "look good" or seem like it could be in our favor, only for it to be to our detriment. God wants us to win. He wants us to be successful. He wants us to train hard so we can be ready during the time of battle. He wants us to put on the Armor of God, walk with seasoned speech and learn how to swing the sword of the Spirit. Bottom line, be encouraged when faced with a distraction that takes you out of your element. Trust that the training and instruction you get from God will carry you. And, when you begin a race, don't look to the right or the left; keep your eyes on the finish line and I guarantee you, you'll win.

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