Sunday, January 20

Taming Our Lions

Do you take pride in how busy you are? Do you find yourself running from one thing to the next? At the end of the day, do you find yourself exhausted, but have trouble falling asleep because you can't quiet your mind?

Does your busyness keep you from spending time with God? Or, do you spend time with God, but it's quick and superficial...a few minutes here or there grabbed on the run? Does the time leave you feeling satisfied or frustrated?

Have you ever noticed lion tamers carry a four-legged stool when they go into the lion cage to train the lions? William H. Hinson explains that animal trainers carry the stool because the lions can't focus on all four of the stool's legs at once. It's too "busy" for them. The trainers have a whip, of course, and usually a pistol as well...but, Hinson says, the stool is the most important tool they carry. They hold the four legs facing the lion so when the animal attempts to focus on all of the legs, it can't. A kind of paralysis overwhelms the lion. It becomes tame, weak, and disabled because its attention is fragmented.

Read: Colossians 3:1-4 and Matthew 11:28-30
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is not hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with him in glory.

Matthew 11:28-30
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.

There's a fine line between busy and too busy. Unfortunately in our society today, busyness is seen as a sign of productivity or purpose. We fear what people will think if we are not doing something. 

But busyness is a significant obstacle to spiritual growth. Like a lion which cannot focus on the four legs of a stool at once and therefore becomes passive and tamed, when we are too busy, we become fragmented and cannot focus on any task in a deep, meaningful way - especially not seeking God! We become passive and miss opportunities for connecting with Jesus in deeper ways. We may go through the motions of spiritual practices, but they lose their impact as we hurry from one thing to the next.

One thing that strikes me in the Gospels is that Jesus never seems to be in a hurry. He's never rushing from one event to the next. A prime example is Luke 8:40-53. Jesus is on his way to see Jairus' daughter when someone touches him. In the time he takes to figure out who touched him, the girl dies. But Jesus is completely calm. I wonder how Jairus was feeling at that point? Or the disciples? 

Jesus, I believe, practiced what Paul writes in Colossians 3. He set his mind on things above. He focused first and foremost on his relationship to his heavenly Father. From that relationship he knew what he was called to do. He knew what his priorities were. And he arranged his life so that he did all he was supposed to without feeling harried or fragmented.

Like Jesus, and Paul, we need to be a people who set our minds on things above. We need to take time to learn from Christ what our calling is and then arrange our work, our play, our ministry, our discretionary time...all of it, in such a way that we can slow down and focus on the important things. Imagine how much deeper our relationship with Jesus would be if we had time to meditate on the Word, spend unhurried time in prayer, and just be with him! Imagine how much more satisfying our relationships would be if we weren't fitting people in but making time with them a priority. Imagine how much more productive our work would be if we had space in our days to refresh and refocus so we could be more effective in what we do.

When you have idle time during your day, where does your mind go? What's your first impulse to do to fill that time?

When you read Matthew 11:28-30 from "The Message", what is stirred in you when you read the phrase, "the unforced rhythms of grace?"

Where is your mind focused...on things above? Or on earthly things? How do you know?

Take a moment to sit quietly with the Lord. Do you sense an invitation or a word of encouragement? What is it? What will you do in response?

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