Updated: Apr 18
Know Thy Enemy; Distraction
By Nick McDowell
In the 2009 movie “Up” there was no character talked about more than the lovable dog, “Dug”, who had a special collar that translated his thoughts into the English language. One of the most memorable moments in the movie is when the main characters first meet Dug. He is sharing about the collar and is in mid-sentence when he suddenly turns his head and says “Squirrel!”, being instantly distracted from what he was doing in the moment.
Have you ever had a “Squirrel!” moment?
I drive my wife crazy with several “Squirrel!” moments every day. We’ll be having a discussion and I’ll look down at my phone (a big no-no…am I right!?) , notice a text, or see a new email and I’m suddenly going down a rabbit trail in my mind. My wife has done the same to me at times, but I’ll admit I’m the guilty party more often than not and boy can it hinder our relationship when I allow myself to lose focus and succumb to distraction.
Distraction. It comes in all different types. Sometimes it’s our own choosing and other times it can be thrust upon us. Being distracted can cost athletes victory in a game. Being distracted can cost someone his or her job. Being distracted can cost us a relationship. And being distracted can harm our relationship with God.
Distraction is the first specific area we’ll focus on when it comes to how our spiritual enemy attempts to trip us up. The reason? It happens without us even realizing it and seems so innocent at the time.
We can feel DISCOURAGEMENT, see DIVISION when it happens, and certainly sense when the enemy is trying to DESTROY us in some way. Being distracted? Oh, it’s no big deal to us. It was just one time. I didn’t mean to forget. I didn’t mean to lose focus. It’s not like I’m sinning, right? Even when we realize that we were distracted from something God wanted us to do, we quickly justify it, minimize it, and move on.
The reason distraction is such an effective technique from the enemy is that our spiritual health is rarely undermined by some “major” sinful event that occurs. While a “big” event might be the end result, it is rare that that event was triggered by something out of the blue. It normally occurs with a slow and steady slide. What often accompanies that slide are poor choices that were the result of being distracted from what we should have been focused on. And little by little, these choices chip away at our relationship with Christ.
C.S. Lewis wrote a great book called “The Screwtape Letters”, a book in which a senior demon, uncle “Screwtape”, writes to his nephew “Wormwood”, who is in charge of tempting a particular human. Screwtape gives Wormwood all types of advice in how to strategically undermine the human’s relationship with Christ. One chapter in particular talks about the best way to take someone to Hell:
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,...Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”
(Lewis, Screwtape Letters)
One of the most classic stories in Scripture is the story of Mary and Martha. Two sisters who were good friends with Jesus and were hosting him at their house. Poor Martha! For 2,000 years people have read how she was the one that failed while her sister Mary chose better. Here is the passage:
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
While many of us might give Martha a hard time, the truth is that a lot of us would have fallen into the same trap. I mean, Martha was just trying to show hospitality, right?! That’s the tricky thing with distraction. We can be distracted by looking at or doing things that aren’t bad and maybe even good, but they aren’t the BEST thing we could be doing. And then what can happen is that choosing to do less than what God wants becomes not doing what He wants at all, and then can become doing the opposite of what He wants…sin and disobedience. Thankfully I think we can safely assume that Martha learned her lesson and that she is in heaven with Jesus as we speak, so she certainly doesn’t care anymore about being on the wrong side of the story!
How can we combat something that can often times be so subtle and innocent, yet have the potential to lead to serious consequences in life? It may be a buzzword in today’s world, but the word is Intentionality.Another way to say it is to be ‘purposeful’ in our thoughts, actions, and words.
Think about this…IF we desire for God to be FIRST in our life, shouldn’t we make Him the FIRST one we focus on in our day? What are your routines? What are your habits? What needs to change to avoid “Squirrel!” moments from continually disrupting time with the Lord and directing you away from His will? It won’t happen overnight, but awareness is something we can develop when we practice it over and over.
We’d probably all agree that the number one distraction out there is anything and everything electronic. TV, social media, video games, mindless hours on YouTube, and anything we view on our computer or phone. Choose to pray in the morning before viewing anything electronic. Maybe on your way to work, turn the radio off and sit in silence as you drive to meditate on and listen for the Lord. Whatever you need to do, be honest with what distracts you and put together a plan of action to help keep your eyes focused on Christ and what He wants each and every day.
What is it that distracts you from Jesus? What keeps you from ‘choosing what is better’? What habits and routines in your life are keeping you from the BEST that God wants for you? Where do you need more intentionality in life?
Don’t let “Squirrel!” moments distract you from Jesus’ plan for your life.