Saturday, April 4, 2015

Responding to Distractions: Shhh, Not Now!

Let me start by saying, it's much easier to be reflective on this topic after numerous days of spring break. A week since I last "shush"-ed a student or attempted to ignore the annoyance of constant pencil tapping.
Oh the overwhelming distractions! Don't these kids know they're interfering with the agenda I have for their learning?
Though it doesn't end there, I have this same frustrated, selfish response to my son whining about his Lego creation that won't stay together.
And the same response still when my wife reminds me that the porch light is still burnt out.

How can I possibly accomplish MY "greater purpose" or MY agenda when God is allowing all of these irritating interruptions to slow me down?
My most popular selfish reaction to these distractions is always motivated by my intent to simply eliminate the distraction. My intolerant attempt to dispose of the disturbance always results in damaging relationships. This behavior obviously does not represent my Lord who lovingly values relationship.
As I struggled with an understanding of how to respond to distractions, the sacrificial practices of Lent came to mind. During this time of preparation, many give up stuff in an effort to draw nearer to God. Surely this could fall into the category of simply eliminating distractions. Are we actually less distracted and more devoted, or do we just find other convenient distractions? I'm not sure God wants us to simply eliminate the distraction. It's much more productive and sustainable to evaluate the distraction and reflect on the reason behind it.
As a teacher I often find myself submitting to the easy response of dismissing, ignoring, or even disciplining the distraction. I've taken the tapping pencil and I've shushed the chatterbox. Did Jesus ever have to face disturbances? How did He respond?
First, I think most the miracles He performed were prompted due to a so called distraction. But I'm choosing to highlight one that took place while he was teaching.
(Luke 5:17-39) Jesus is teaching to a packed house, literally. The audience included both his followers as well as Pharisees and scribes who opposed Him. Needless to say, it is already a challenging classroom environment. To add to this, a group of men start digging a hole through the roof, dropping chunks of the clay ceiling on the room before finally dropping a person down the hole. Talk about a distraction! How does Jesus respond to this rude interruption of his teaching? He evaluates the distraction, sees a need and a desire. He gracefully responds by understanding the need and tending to it, amid an otherwise chaotic situation.
What a lesson about recognizing the teachable moments! Jesus views distraction as opportunity instead of annoyance.
So what will be my reaction when my son, student, spouse, or stranger is digging through the roof to get my attention? Will my response be one of selfishness or grace?

As I mature...err...get older, I'm finding my God takes great notice to the fine details in the daily process of life. I think He is more concerned with the nature of my constant interactions with others (how I respond to distraction), rather than some achievable end product. I'm confident He'll continue to offer opportunities (distractions) for me to develop a better story through Him.