Worthy are You, our Lord and our God,
to receive glory and honor and power;
for You created all things,
and because of Your will they existed,
and were created.
–Revelation 4:11 NASB
“What did you do today?”
Even before COVID-19 / sheltering-in-place / spending-copious-amounts-of-time-at-home became a thing, the question, “What did you do today?” always hit a nerve. Arriving home after a long day, I would be met inside the front door, six little kids clambering for my attention, and my wife looking at me hopefully. “What did you do today?” I heard it as an invitation to give a defense for my existence; she just wanted some adult interaction. It took years to figure out why walking in the front door was never something I looked forward to. Ultimately, it was because (back then) I rarely felt like what I did “today” mattered — I did nothing worthy of the space I took up, nor of the air I breathed in, nor of the calories I consumed. But that was then…
Recently, when a friend called and asked, “What did you do today?” I felt a twinge of the urge to make the little I had done sound REALLY important, but I caught myself, and said, “Not much of anything. What did you do?” I really was interested in hearing, looking for ideas of something I could do the next day.
“I went for a little run,” he answered.
“Great! How far did you go?”
Silence on my end as I’m contemplating how 14 miles fits under the category of “a little run.” “Wow, dude! That’s awesome.”
Our conversation stayed on running for a while until I finally got to the question that is always my personal running barrier: “How do you not get bored and quit? I can go for about four miles, and then I’m done – even when I could physically run more, I’m so bored I quit.”
“All runners want to quit at some point,” he said, “the trick is to keep your mind focused from the start so that when your body gets to that point when it wants to quit, your mind isn’t already at home eating chips and dip. Runners need to focus and not let their mind wander in order not to quit.” (I guess he meant, “Focus on something other than food.”)
I’ve thought about that conversation a lot this past week as I’ve contemplated what I could focus on that would help me through the “bored four,” as I’ve come to call my fourth mile. And I had another conversation with my Father about it, too. “What is something that I could focus on that will keep me going when I’m tired and bored?” I asked, praying as I ran. A scene came into my memory: a boat on the sea, fishermen straining at their nets, another man closely observing it all. Even as a young believer that scene from Luke five captivated my heart – maybe it was because I could so easily identify with Peter’s plea, “Go away from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man.” For years before reading that, I had been keeping Jesus at arm’s length, feeling like my sin always kept me from being good enough. I came to understand that part of my conversion was turning from a focus on my sin to an intentional, steady focus on my Savior. Running on, that element was not lost on me. I have a tendency to focus on the hardship, the adversity, the lack. My cup is not only half-empty, it often has a slow leak.
Jesus’ answer to Peter always seemed a bit of a non-sequitur: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you’ll be fishing for men.” Did Jesus really think that Peter was afraid? Of what?
But over the last decade of my life, I’ve had a growing understanding of the fear (I think) Jesus was referring to: the fear that shows itself in an over-focusing on unworthy things. Early in life I over-focused on being good enough. As a young husband and father, I over-focused on doing everything “right.” As a global-worker, I over-focused on being significant and doing something that mattered. While running, I tend to over-focus on how hard the hill is, or how tired my legs are, or just how bored I am. And this over-focusing on unworthy things brings the “fear” that those things will never change – that I will never change, I will always be this way. Over-focusing on unworthy things kills hope, rehearsing that nothing is worthy or will ever be.
Put like that, we are sobered, stopped. It’s not a way of life we truly want. So, how do we change? Perhaps it’s not so much about how we change ourselves, but how God, in His grace changes our very being. Perhaps it all starts with a change of focus. So, what is worthy of our focus? (not a trick question)
ACTION: Although we know the right answers, we don’t always practice them. Right now could be a good time to practice what you know. Take some time and intentionally put your focus on the One who is worthy. Sit for five minutes and ask Him to bring to mind aspects of His character that are worthy of your praise. If thoughts of your own unworthiness creep in, take a minute to jot them down, letting the paper hold them. Show them to the Lord and let Him bring you through them when it’s time. Then, if you’d like, listen to this video of “Is He Worthy” and allow your mind to dwell there.