Although it is nearly twenty years since I drove a car, I do remember losing concentration while driving. This happened to me in two ways, the first would be the actual inattention that allowed the car to wander while I was busy watching something on a hill or in the fields, the other is that autopilot period when you have no memory at all of the last few miles. It is hard to stay focussed. We can lose our way regularly and easily if we let our minds drift aimlessly. Letting our minds be quiet in this way can have occasional benefits but for the most part the negatives outweighs any positivity. I’m sure we have even found ourselves reading a book, perhaps even this one and finding ourselves several pages further along than we realise without having taken in anything we have been reading.
This lack of attention, loss of focus, can easily turn into a. trap set to snare us in our spiritual life. How easily we can forget about our journey, our relationship with God, we can even find ourselves bored at Mass and we let our minds wander during the Readings, the Homily or even the Prayers. It can become so routine we gloss over the events and pass on as in a dream.
At its worst it can become laziness, a sort of letting go, till we find ourselves forgetting all about Mass or Church and even prayer. We drift away like a rudderless ship.
I put my hand up as easily being a drifter and a putter off of holy things, of going through the motions without being truly present in the moment. I think we can all claim that and own it.
So we have aids. We know I hope the ones the Church can provide us with and even when we are slogging through a morass of unfocused living we can at least keep our anchor firmly rooted in what matters. We must be alert to fight this, though, as it is not acceptable to fall into an unfocused life that drifts by.
St Paul writes about this a lot as do others and the Bible is full of people falling away in an aimless drift. This is a hard life we have chosen, every thing around us, pulls us away from being citizens of the Kingdom and how easily we are distracted. At present we look after a puppy three days or more each week, he has an attention span of a few seconds sometimes, flitting from one thing to another when he isn’t curled up sleeping, that can be our lives as well, especially in the age of the smartphone and Facebook!
I have to fight very hard, even after decades, to stay focussed. I try to help myself by doing some of the following. Every room has a visual aid so that my eyes hit on something wherever I look, to my right as I type there is a statue of the Blessed Virgin, to my left more or less in line of sight an icon of the Holy Family. If I rise I am aware of the Rosary in my pocket. If I head to front door there is a small crucifix on the wall, thats serves for me, like a Jewish Mezuzah, something to be touched and used as a blessing point on entry and exit. I have alarms set on my watch at noon and three to remind me of the crucial times of the crucifixion. At noon, the time of darkness, at three the bowing of the Lord’s head with the words, ‘It is finished’. Everywhere I go, in my home in every room there are reminders to stay on track, to remain focussed on the Lord at all times.
Even so, I must confess it is hard to keep paying attention, to stay alert and focussed. These little things I do help a little but the journey we are on and the narrow road we have to travel are hard. But I want to complete my journey, I long and hope that one day the Lord will be able to say, Well done, you good and faithful servant.
What I dread most is letting Him down.
No matter how far you may drift or lose focus, you can still snap back into focus, just don’t give up.