We’re always multitasking. As I write this, I’ve got seven things on my mental backburner. Just read an e-mail. Just checked my phone for a text (it didn’t come, and my phone would have buzzed if it had). There’s something scary about focus. It’s easy to stack seven or eight tasks, one on top of the other, as a stopgap between us and a besetting anxiety. I think that that this anxiety is a fear of an encounter with ourselves – a meeting of me with myself.
I think that I am altogether terrified to look in the mirror without offering proof that I am worth something. And so, I multitask. Of course I’m worth something. Look at all of these people depending on me, and all of these projects that I have. I am clawing and scraping and scratching to be needed. How could I be nothing when I’m needed? And in this state of mind, my relationships, work, school, duties, and every external detail of my life becomes a counterpoint to the existential void that declares over and to each person – over and to me – “Worthless.” “Pathetic.” “Insufficient.”
It is tremendous, in rebellion against the voice of the void, how singular and slow Jesus is in his own focus in ministry. Of course, he is constantly racing here and there, but what is unique is that where he is, he is. He is there, not elsewhere. He listens to people so that he may speak fitting words to them – to the wealthy, to the poor, to the sinful, to the “righteous.” He listens, and he speaks, and he acts, and he does so purposefully and consciously stripped of distractions. When he prays, he gets alone. When he counsels, he gives instruction for when the conversation is over. When he overturns tables, he does so publically and with pointed and meaningful aggression. When he blesses children, he scorns distraction. Jesus lives life looking himself in the eye, and unflinchingly operates out of the security that he does not need to be distracted from himself. The accuser cannot reach his heart.
Satan himself came to Jesus and told him all the things we tell ourselves – that he was worthless, unwanted, and needed to prove his value, even if only to himself. And the rest of Jesus’ life was lived out of the explicit conviction that the opposite was true – that God was his loving Father, that he had come to give the value of his perfect life to the people he loved, and that attempts to prove one’s value to one’s own self are futile.
As Pascal infamously said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Indeed, perhaps if we were able to experience a confrontation with the self – with our selves – then we could evaluate our time and tasks aright. In these next five minutes, what do I need to get done? Do we have no time because we feel that any presence of free time is diagnostic of worthlessness? Or can I say, by faith, “I’ve got time” because ultimately, I’m OK. I’m alright, and that liberates me from the tyranny which is the fear that having nothing to do means I’m second-rate. I don’t need to be anyone other than who I am – a sinner, saved by the gracious person of Christ, healing and repenting one day at a time – and so, I’ve got time to do the next thing I’ve got to do, and to give it the focus which being secure in my identity in Christ allows me to have.
(I needed this blog for myself, so there you go. A little autobiographical, but if you’re like me at all, I hope this was helpful.)