It seemed a simple question, yet no answer came to my mind. Pursuing an extended time of stillness, meditating on El Roi, the God who “sees”, the same questions in Genesis 16:8 posed to Hagar now echoed in my mind. “Where did you come from? And where are you going? Specifically, on what was my soul focused bringing me into this moment with God and subsequently where might my focus lead me? Come along as I share my shocking discovery of 3 ways your focus becomes your identity.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends.
Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always.
We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning the art of “stillness” so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
focus determines direction
Simple and straighforward, God’s questions to Hagar provided answers Hagar needed, not unknown information He required. Likewise, sitting with those questions revealed how my focus shaped my identity. But until I stilled my soul before God and listened, I remained lost as to why things rarely went in the direction I hoped.
Coming from a place of overwhelm revealed a singular focus on circumstances, [perceived] demands and ultimately my ability to control the outcomes.
Arriving before God from a place of overwhelm not only revealed the origin of my restlessness, but gave clear indication of my ultimate destination. How? Because your focus controls the direction of your life.
“Be careful little eyes what you see” provides more than a warning about viewing unwholesome things. You go where your eyes (or focus) goes. Try walking straight ahead while looking to the side.
In the same way your eyes direct your physical steps, your focus directs your identity.
focus produces fruit
The things upon which you focus not only grow, but multiply, revealing one way your focus becomes your identity. Noticing my posture of overwhelm earlier and my focus on circumstances, [perceived] demands and my need for controlling outcomes; when left unchecked multiplied my overwhelm. My soul felt restless, lost, and discouraged.
A focus on negativity, problems, fear, and “all the things” yields more of the same. The more I focused on everything I felt needed done (and controlled), the more things continued adding to my list.
Conversely, a focus on beauty, goodness, rest, peace, joy and grace yields exactly more of these precious gifts. When I shifted my focus to find God’s good gifts, I found them everywhere. Resulting in a calm, life-full soul.
Whatever commands your greatest focus owns your soul.
your brain reinforces your focus
Perhaps you experience the reality of this phenomena as regularly as me, but if not, conduct your own experiment. Make an honest evaluation of your focus by the posture of your soul; what emotions swirl to the top? Negative emotions=negative focus.
Still a skeptic? Try the neuroscientific explanation commonly known as “neuroplasticity”. Simply put, every thought repeated or focused creates a neuropathway in the brain. The stronger the focus, the deeper the imprint on the brain. Over time, repeated thought patterns become automatic resonses and behavior; or “identity”.
In contrast, the things receiving less focus become weaker, dissapating over time.
Sadly, most of us create more negative neuropathways than positive ones. But the malleability of the human brain offers opportunities for true and lasting change. Aside from the proven affects on the brain, considering the brevity of life; what type of fruit will your focus produce from the moments of the days of your one life?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?Mary Oliver
focus reveals your belief system
While the object of our focus multiplies fruit identifying our soul’s posture; our focus clearly portrays our belief system. For in the stillness, asking from where my soul came that day and where I was going, also revealed my location in reference to God.
Or rather the answers provide another way your focus becomes your identity. Your focus surfaces your true beliefs about God. Going back to my soul’s posture of overwhelm, my tense pushing and striving toward my controlled outcomes indicated my belief of God’s inadequacy.
If I must push and strive to obtain my controlled outcomes, or if fear and worry consume my thoughts, in essence I proclaim my belief: God is not enough.
Who is God truly, to you? Your words may speak God is your loving Father and sovereign Lord, but your focus reveals He is indifferent, uncaring and distant.
What you pay attention to, you remember; what you remember, you anticipate in the future.Curt Thompson-Anatomy of a Soul
Your focus in relation to God, what you believe about God, you remember; what you remember about God becomes what you anticipate about Him in the future. Your focus reveals belief in His absolute sovereignty and goodness, or your fear and disappointment in His inadequacies.
focus determines behavior
As they say, “Talk is cheap”. Sitting with the reality of a divided focus, I recalled a conversation from the day before. A Christian colleague struggled with trusting the Lord in the midst of a difficult situation. My counsel of releasing the outcome to God, while allowing Him to calm the storm in her soul, now chafed at my own turmoil.
Sometimes, like the Apostle Peter in Matthew 14:22-33, we bravely step out onto the waves of the sea, as Jesus instructed. Only to suddenly shift our focus to the raging storm around us, ultimately sinking.
Jesus called me to the tasks which so overwhelmed me, yet my eyes rested not on Him, but on my ability to walk the waves.
Stepping into the calling, responsibilities, or situations proves easier than maintaining a fixed gaze on Jesus. How often my focus then becomes the hardship of each situation, allowing hardship ownership of my soul.
My twisted focus pushes me to do everything in my own power and in so doing, I demonstrate the storms are bigger than God. When in reality, the wind and waves obey Him!
The third way your focus becomes your identity results when the fruit of your focus dictates your belief system about God resulting in behavior demonstrating the calm of abiding in Christ or the turmoil of self-sufficiency.
your focus becomes your identity
Embracing a time of stillness before God, make space for quiet, simply listening to the voice of your soul. Honestly seek the truth of your current posture and location in relation to God. Considering the following questions, and then sit quietly for the Spirit’s leading.
- Where am I coming from?-What emotions, or thoughts dominate?
- Where am I going? Knowing the truth of where you came from, where will you go?
- Who is God to my soul right now? Be truthful, look for ways you are controlling or worried.
- To whom am I looking for strength, provision and wisdom for the requirements of my day?
As you make space for true stillness, honestly assessing from where your soul arrived in this moment, and subsequently where you will go, you also determine who God is to you right now. Upon these truths pivots the trajectory of your day.
For from the stillness of your soul before Jesus, He asks, “What do you want?” (John 1:36-38) Just as he asked John and Andrew, when He saw them following Him after John the Baptist declared Him the “Lamb of God”.
Again, He asks not for unknown information He requires, but as a way of revealing your true heart’s desire.
With this question, Jesus reveals your focus; the driving force of your soul.
Your deepest wants and needs shape your focus, dictating the direction of your moments, days and life. While not always misguided (though your focus can reveal an idol), Jesus often leads in a different direction.
For the express purpose of molding and reshaping your focus to reflect an ultimate desire of complete union with the heart of Christ. God began this good work the day of your salvation, (Philippians 1:6) and continues His perfect work until the day when your focus becomes your complete identity in Christ.