My Bible reading along with a few other excerpted readings from other sources took an unexpected turn this morning coming together to bring home and highlight the thought of single-minded devotion to God. This isn’t a new thought for me…or others for that matter, but it needs reminded in me from time-to-time. It seems no matter how “devoted” I think I am to God and/or how intimately in communion with Him I believe that I am, I lose focus…I get distracted and my affections begin to wander. I would rather that never happen in me and I would like to believe that I have singleness of heart, but time and time again I am reminded that I am not faultless in my single-minded devotion to my Lord.
I am reading through for a second time a book by Ronald Rohlheiser titled The Restless Heart. I read this book the first time while I was spending a month at the Pecos Monastery in New Mexico. I haven’t blogged or posted a review on this book yet because I’m still processing and “stewing” in it. Rohlheiser writes the following:
We are more busy than bad, more distracted than nonspiritual and more interested in the movie theatre, the sports stadium, and the shopping mall and fantasy life they produce in us than we are in church. Pathological busyness, distraction and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual lives. -Ronald Rohlheiser
Even when I am intentional about not busying my life, I still busy my life. I think it is a subconscious reality that while we are on this side of eternity we will forever be battling “busy” distractions; this is one of the unforeseen results of Adam’s choice of self over God. The subsequent consequence for us from this is the struggle to remain focused on relationship with our God as we meander through the daily business of life. Such is the price of original broken fellowship between me and my Creator God. And so I pray: “O Lord, purify my heart to long for the one true thing and be distracted by nothing as I seek to know You with unbroken fellowship, undistracted devotion, and complete purity of heart. Amen.”
Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and that there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing. -Teresa of Avila
According to St. Teresa, if we are to will one thing and seek undistracted devotion, it will mean purposeful separation from “many things.” In other words, in order to say “yes” to God, it will be necessary to say “no” to many things. I think this is made clear in some of the words of Ronald Rohlheiser as he describes our busy distractions coming from temporal, fantasy-fueled, indulgences that feed our restlessness…these are some of the things we must say “no” to in order to find our way back to the path of time spent with the One who is (or should be) the real object of our devotion.
I was reading about Jacob this morning from Genesis and was caught up in mid-sentence with these words out of chapter thirty-two; “…and Jacob was left alone, then someone came and wrestled with him through the night” (Genesis 32:24). It says; …and Jacob was left alone. The context is Jacob’s return to his homeland. He is fearful of his brother Esau and sends ahead of himself all his family and all his estate. Forget whether or not Jacob is acting out of cowardice or self-preservation or any other motive. The point here is that he is alone; all alone. It is in this alone place and vulnerable place, this isolated place…that Someone comes and wrestles with him through the night. This is a moment of crisis and a pivotal point in the life of Jacob. His attitude, his nature, his physical state, and his name are all changed (this might be a metaphor for all of his soul, all of his mind, all of his heart, all of his strength). He is now, Israel, the one who has wrestled with God face-to-face. He is the man who is forever changed because he was alone with God.
“Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.” (Psalm 84:4)
I’m glad to be reminded of the cost of single-minded devotion and the reason for it. I am easily distracted. Setting aside intentional moments, literally scheduling alone times with God, are the ways and the means to remain focused on the will of one thing. Yes, it will mean saying “no” to many things. It will also mean a lessening of affections toward many things that used to captivate my attention, but I know this is good… replacing the ravenous restless hungers of my flesh with the soul satisfying presence of God is what my heart truly longs for. I am encouraged by the words of Jeremiah from Lamentations.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline. Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands. (Lamentations 3:21-28)
“…and Jacob was left alone, then someone came and wrestled with him through the night”
“O Lord, purify my heart to long for the one true thing and be distracted by nothing as I seek to know You with unbroken fellowship, undistracted devotion, and complete purity of heart. Amen.”