Martin Luther is translated as saying “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” I often laugh at this saying because there are so many distractions in life. There are entire days where the only consistent thing in my life is that there is something or someone hollering for my attention. The first three hours in prayer? I am sometimes lucky to carve out the first three minutes before the knocking and ringing begins.
With that being said, I want to make a case for allowing ourselves to be distracted. I do not mean when driving or doing something incredibly dangerous. I think we need to allow ourselves to be distracted from lives that can often be overly scheduled, overly planned, and overly busy.
Last fall I was driving to and from the Veteran’s Home in Oxford, NY. It was a quiet fall day and I had been incredibly busy running from visitation to visitation when it happened. I was driving over a hill when the light of the sunset caught the leaves as they were blowing out of the trees. There was riot of reds, yellows, and browns caught up in the golden glow of the sun. It was breathtaking. I was moved to tears.
I had been so focused on what I was doing that day. There were places to go and people to see. I had run into Wegmans and barely slowed down to talk to a church member and her husband because I was focused on getting Swiss Cake Rolls for a homebound gentleman who can’t get out. I ate lunch in the car while parked in a parking lot texting. I had started the day in prayer but had not taken a moment to breathe since the day had begun. I was rushing until God effectively painted a picture of majesty and I rushed straight into the midst of God’s glory on stage.
The exact term for the spiritual discipline of focusing on the glory of God revealed in creation is VIsio Divina. A quick Google search will reveal there are books and resources in spades on this concept. For me Visio Divina is summarized as praying with one’s eyes.
I think it is very hard to engage in that type of prayer if we don’t allow ourselves to be distracted from life. Sometimes, we plan things so tightly that we don’t have time to notice, time to see, time to perceive, or even time to pray. Holy distractions are necessary sometimes.
So how do we make ourselves available to holy distraction? I have some thoughts.
- Start every day with three hours of prayer like Martin Luther. If you cannot find three hours to pray, then at least begin the day with a prayer that your eyes would be open to see and perceive what is around you. You might be surprised how a quick prayer to open your eyes can help you to see far more than you expect.
- Set aside time for Sabbath rest. Do not spend all of your time working, playing, driving, and doing the things of life. Take a half-hour for a walk with a friend to see how the world around you looks. Sit with your thoughts for a bit while looking over a valley. Go to the library and find a book with pictures of the plains of the Serengeti or the Rocky Mountains. Sit with that book for a while and see God’s fingers in creation.
- Take a moment at the next red light to look at the sky. Just don’t forget to keep an eye out to see when the light turns green.
- Tie a string on your finger first thing in the morning and only take it off after you’ve seen something God has created to be beautiful.
There are a million and one ways to be distracted by God’s creation. May your distractions be good distractions and may they be welcome when they come.