Focusing on the main distraction
“Go Orange! Go Big Blue! Fight! Fight! BSU!”
Recently transplanted to Boise, I decided to attend my first Boise State football game and join the throng of blue-and-orange clad fans, cheering on the only collegiate athletes to carry the pigskin across a field of artificial blue turf. This town loves their football. And if you don’t quickly learn the cheers and chants, you might be questioned as a special agent for the other team. So I busied myself learning to shout about first downs, touchdowns, and a bronco named Buster.
Sitting next to me were my son, Sam, and his friend, Hudson, both 11 years old and both much more interested in the super-sized box of Mike and Ike’s they had convinced me were a Boise State tradition at the snack shack. We sat close to the field, watching as players charged toward the end zone, their expressions partially hidden by facemasks. It was one of those edge-of-your-seat games that included several long touchdown passes, caught and converted right in front of our seats. One particular play, the wide receiver ran a simple mid-field post pattern, but suddenly angled for our corner and took off for the end zone. The quarterback was deep in the pocket with no pressure and the crowd rose to their feet. As the receiver ran toward us, a perfect spiral dropped gently into his outstretched hands about 15 yards from the end zone. The crowd went wild. Sam was tugging on my arm and shouting,
“Mom, you gotta see this!”
“Sam, I’m watching. I think he’s going to score.” I tried to shake his grip.
Sam was still tugging and trying to turn my head. “No, over here, Mom. You gotta see her. She is amazing. Look! Or you’re gonna miss it.”
Annoyed, I turned my gaze to where Sam and Hudson were pointing, and saw that they were both mesmerized by the baton majorette at the opposite end of the field. She was twirling three batons at once, and was doing cartwheels and catching them all with precision.
“See,” Sam said triumphantly. “Isn’t that amazing! She has three batons!”
I quickly turned my head back to the end zone, only to watch the wide receiver blowing kisses to the students in the bleacher seats and chest bumping his QB and offensive line. I had missed the touchdown.
“Mom! Over here!” Sam physically pulled my head to see the majorette. She had kicked it up a notch, and was
spinning, twirling, leaping, catching the baton and landing in the splits.
“That was awesome!” said Hudson, in awe.
“I know, right!?” said Sam. “And my mom missed most of it,” he looked at me with an accusing eye. “She wasn’t paying attention when she did that last flip.”
Both boys rolled their eyes at me, and then went on discussing the amazing feats the baton girl had pulled off. They were completely oblivious to the rest of the crowd going berserk about the dramatic touchdown. They had no idea middle-aged men were reaching over their heads to high-five their buddies four rows back. They were just filled with delight that they had witnessed that girl’s talent and lived to tell about it.
How is it, in those moments, that just when you think there is a problem with your child’s focus and attention, it dawns on you that the problem is really yours. My eyes were trained to follow the crowd; my ears tuned to the cries of the masses; my contrived joy in mastering a fight song I felt silly singing. They, however, were able to tune out all distractions that vied for their attention and found true delight. C.S. Lewis once said you never set out to find joy; it is discovered along the way to something else.
Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul stood up in a little rented hall in Ephesus and told a sweaty, ragtag group of Ephesian Christians that they were the main players on the world stage. In this lofty city, that housed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, on a trade route that makes our port cities look sleepy, the Christians were hardly noteworthy. Close to Tyrannus Hall where Paul preached for two years was the Great Theatre of Ephesus, the equivalent of our Bronco Stadium. There, record-breaking crowds were gathered, shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for hours on end. Sounded a lot like “Go Big Blue,” according to Acts chapter 19:
The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
I love the line, “Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” I wonder if any of them learned the Artemis fight song for the first time, just to blend in with the masses. And Alexander, the lone baton twirler, couldn’t sway the crowd, no matter how important and amazing his words would have been. Paul was eventually driven from the city. But he never wavered in reminding the believers that despite the noise around them, they were blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms and are a joy and a delight to their Creator. Upon his later imprisonment in Rome, Paul again reaffirmed these truths to the Ephesians. His letter has been passed like a baton through the persecuted church, through translations and wars, through countries and cities, through pulpits and pens and continues to lodge in our hearts and minds to speak truth into a crowded world filled with big loud lies.
Nowadays, our sweaty, scuffed-up band of Christians are surrounded by the noise of a thousand touchdowns and the antics of countless winning receivers. It is so tempting to fight our way onto the wrong playing field and grasp for glory, instead of resting on the sidelines, in the grace and glory of the one who is not distracted by the noise, not impressed with our supermen, or swayed by the masses. The Psalmist reminds us, “He delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:11) Always. Every day. Even in our distractions and our failings. Our obscurity or ignominy don’t cloud God’s vision.
As Paul encouraged the early Christians, let’s remind each other of the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Let’s remind ourselves that the One who made our eyes, sees us, on and off the field. And he loves what he sees.