The Wandering Mind

I am plagued by a problem I most likely share with many of you. I am far too easily distracted, by anything and everything. My thoughts zing from one strand to another, totally unrelated ideas. I miss what someone is saying because I’m thinking of what to say or what to do next.  It doesn’t matter where I am – whether at work, home or church. It doesn’t matter what I am doing – walking the dog, in a meeting, driving, or making dinner.  Sadly, it rarely ever matters even who I am with.
As I have become more aware of my increasingly wandering mind, I have noticed others struggling with the same issues. It’s no secret that many blame our growing reliance on technology and media for this. The average office worker checks their email 30 times every hour! How long is the average attention span these days? The dubious marketing industry, who capitalizes on these types of facts, claims it was 12 seconds in 2000 and dropped to 8.25 seconds in 2015. Meanwhile, the consistent goldfish has maintained an average attention span of 9 seconds!
What is happening? What is the impact on our ability to relate to others, pray, meditate, discern, and gain spiritual insight when we can’t hold a thought for more than 8 seconds? I know that much of my problem stems from my desire to do too many things too quickly. Here’s a peek into how the Lord showed me this recently. In the book, Sacred Pace by Terry Looper (not necessarily a book recommendation, though some good autobiographical food for thought,) he offers 4 steps to hear from God and discern His will. Step one includes “slow down…”  Ok, Lord, show me how I can slow down? As I prayed that thought, I happened to be driving/crawling on Rt 208 to work, while drinking coffee, mentally planning out my day, brainstorming what to make for dinner that evening, and listening to said audiobook at 1.3X speed.  So much for a “sacred pace”! How can I complain about a wandering mind when I am exercising no discipline in helping myself to focus, be present, or remain “in the moment”?
If the marketing industry has learned to leverage the wandering mind to feed us more and more temptations and subtle messages clouding out the important and essential, surely God’s Word has an anecdote. Jesus is our ultimate example of “living in the moment,” perfectly paying attention to the important and prioritizing what needs to be done. I know I will never fully live up to His example, but I want to practice behaviors that foster a focused mind rather than a wandering mind. I know I need protection from the onslaught of urgent tasks and thoughts that crowd out the essential – God’s best for me.  Romans 12:2 exhorts us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good pleasing and perfect will.”

There are many practical ways to “renew our minds” through spiritual disciplines and personal worship. The Lord is transforming my heart and mind using Philippians 4:4, 6-7. “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!… And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” May you find peace and protection for your hearts and minds as you rejoice in Christ this year!

Cedar Wang is a member of GRC.