Each morning we move from our sleep into a more focused wakefulness. It comes in stages. We may have morning birds, family nudges, or an alarm to stir us. Then we’re on to the standard start-up stuff of every morning. A shower. Toast and coffee along with some family coordinating. We all have our own particulars in normal morning progressions.
So here’s a question for all of us who know Jesus. When does he come on the scene? Is he present in the early events; at noon; or before bed in the evening? Or is he a weekend guest?
Let me answer my own question. I start the day with him. Today, for instance, I sat up and stretched after the radio alarm came alive. I took my bedside Bible and read most of Hebrews. I was foggy at first but after four or five minutes I was in gear. I usually take thirty minutes for reading. And this morning two verses stood out: “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (12:1-2). It offered a good thought for a blog.
The key focus? “Looking to Jesus.” In the prior chapter, before reaching this verse, I read about lives focused on “what was promised”—a promise that changed life priorities. So today we have their lives—the people in chapter eleven—as models of faith. And these people show us how faith and focus are a single reality. To have faith is to focus on God through his Son Jesus in all that life offers.
The connection drew me in because it answers a question I asked as a newly minted Christian. I was sixteen years old when I first heard Jesus speaking heart-to-heart with me in the Sermon on the Mount. So in Matthew 6:33 his call for me to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” left me delighted and puzzled—I was ready, but how does “seek first” work?
The answer for me was simple: keep on reading! If I first heard from Jesus by reading the Bible, the best way to continue the conversation was to keep on with my Bible reading. Not around the clock, of course, but for some meaningful time each day—long enough to sustain a relationship.
That sounds simple enough, but over time I realized it was a many-layered invitation. A literal reading of “seek first” was illustrated in my morning bedroom scene. I have the place to myself so I turn on the lights, pick up my Bible and pen, turn on my iPod audible Bible and go as far as I can in thirty to forty minutes. So it’s the first event of the day for me.
It’s also a life priority. By starting the day with God I’m telling him I want him to be first and foremost. Before I talk to others I want to hear from him. Before I make any of the host of daily decisions we all make I want him to have first access to my heart. It’s a true starting point for the day: I get to sift yesterday’s choices and invite him to coach me in the new day.
At some point I realized we’re all made as responders—as a heart-based beings—so I want to guard my heart by asking him to search me and to know my heart. I want him to lead me in his ways. And for that I need to listen to the values he shares in the Scriptures. It’s like getting dressed spiritually before I step out into the whirl of competing values the world brings.
I’ve never married and it’s been decades since I shared a room with brothers; or a dorm room with classmates or soldiers. And I can only imagine the communion of a good marriage. I assume it would include some morning time to talk through the day—and some sort of mutual expression of care. As a single man I’ve given that role to the Lord—to be my morning conversation partner. I listen to him through Bible reading-and-listening; and then I spend about fifteen minutes responding to what I just read. And I mention my family and friends to him—my interior “prayer list”—and offer him my plans for the day.
That’s my version of finding a focus for the day. I share it because it flows out of my early “seek first” calling and it’s a calling to all of us. I’m sure others can offer alternative steps to focus—to love our triune God with heart, soul, mind, and strength throughout the day. And we’ll do well to exchange notes.
So what’s your own “focus” story?