As I confessed in the last post on decluttering, I tend toward OCD. I think constantly, rapidly, and in many different directions all at the same time.
Sometimes I think multi-level and multi-directional thinking is a strength. It helps me quickly assess what needs to be done and to delegate. More often, however, I’m learning that it is a weakness.
I’ve been studying the Gospels much lately for the Journey with Jesus message series I’m preaching through. As you read about the life of Christ, you just don’t get the sense that He was obsessive or compulsive. You don’t sense a mind frazzled with details and overwhelmed with activity. Rather, it seems that He was always on schedule, never late, never in a hurry—moment by moment doing the will of the Father.
The One-word Answer
In our fast-paced society, our minds become cluttered quickly and easily. So many details in our multitude of deadlines. So many projects all converging at the same time. So many responsibilities to so many people. And top it all with the never-ending demands of the needy people we serve. Sometimes our minds get so cluttered that we aren’t able to effectively think the way we should.
How do we slow it down? How do we declutter our minds?
One word: focus.
Declutter your mind through focus.
Jesus had a single focus—doing the will of the Father.
Paul wrote, “This one thing I do….” Most of us would more accurately write, “These forty things I attempt to multi-task.”
Focus is a discipline. And it is a discipline we must develop if we are to declutter our minds.
Unveil the Enemy
We have to see a stressed and cluttered mind for the distraction that it is.
When my mind is cluttered, I forget things—keys, wallet, cell phone. I also tend to become irritable and demanding. I struggle to focus on the larger, important tasks that don’t urgently clamor for my attention.
If you’re willing to go through life distracted and driven, you probably won’t find the rest of this post very helpful. But if you want clarity to focus on the main priorities of life, I suggest you declare war on mental clutter.
God’s Formula for Focus
Most of us with cluttered minds are missing a vital element of our devotional life—meditation.
New Agers have hijacked the word in advocating transcendental meditation. But the word is actually biblical. Furthermore, it is a discipline that God commands.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.—Joshua 1:8
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.—1 Timothy 4:15
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;—1 Peter 1:13
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.—Colossians 3:2
When was the last time you paused just to meditate on God? Even in our “quiet times” it’s easy for distraction to set in as we look ahead toward the events of the coming day. Meditation helps us pull the plug on the mental whirlwind. It focuses our minds (and then our hearts in response) on God’s sovereignty, His purpose for our lives and our day, and His truth.
Meditation brings a clarity and cleansing. It settles our minds.
Prepare for Resistance
I have to warn you, the discipline of meditation isn’t developed without a struggle. Just as you anticipate some resistance to your goals to exercise or to eat healthy foods, you should anticipate some resistance here.
There are 1,001 forces competing for attention and attempting to overload our minds. Sometimes our minds become cluttered through detail overload, sometimes through emotional overload, sometimes through media or information overload. In fact, the information age poses a serious threat to hearing from God.
There is so much information coming into our minds that we sometimes have to just stop and determine I’m not going to think on any of that right now. And then we gird up the loins of our mind and focus on the task God has set before us.
Every so often, my computer begins running slow. It becomes overloaded with small bytes of information stored throughout its drives. To speed the computer’s processes, I have to take the time to work through it, purging old files and unused programs.
Sometimes we need to purge and clear through our minds as well. We set aside the details we don’t need and the demands that don’t fit into God’s plan for our lives. And then we narrow our focus: What does God want from me today? What does my family need today? What has my employer asked for today?
A mind focused on the Lord and committed to living for eternal purposes is a mind freed from the weights of distraction.
(Stay tuned! In the next clutter buster post, we’ll look at decluttering your schedule.)