As I went on my daily morning walk this past week, I somehow managed to get a teeny, tiny rock in my tennis shoe. As I was walking this little nuisance went from my heel for a few paces, to the ball of my foot a few paces later, then up underneath my toes. It jostled around from here to there in my shoe every few steps I took. I thought to myself “if only it would land in one spot where it didn’t bother me, I wouldn’t have to stop my walk.” Now, this little nuisance wasn’t the only problem. As I was having this conversation in my head and debating whether or not to stop or keep walking, I was actually listening to a sermon podcast by Bill Hybels. Bill is the pastor at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. I loooooove Bill Hybels. He’s so good, I cling to every word. I don’t want to miss anything he says. But I did because I was distracted by and preoccupied with this stupid little, teeny, tiny pebble in my shoe. I was even trying to tell myself, “Beth, focus on the sermon, not the dumb rock.” But after being distracted and preoccupied by this dumb thing, I realized I missed something key in Bill’s sermon. I was frustrated. And it was so silly…and pitiful really. I went from being encapsulated by a great sermon to distracted and preoccupied with a stupid rock.
I wonder what bigger things in my life I get distracted and preoccupied with? I wonder what key things I miss because I’m distracted and preoccupied? I wonder what distractions and preoccupations I experience that actually steal my joy or rob me of contentment? I wonder what little, insignificant things I get consumed with that get in the way of my missing the bigger, more important picture?
There’s an interesting story in the Old Testament in the book of Esther about guy named Haman. He was the king’s right hand man. He’s the main antagonist in the story of Esther. He was arrogant, proud, and quite full of himself. All the royal officials at the king’s gate were to bow down and honor Haman as directed by the king himself. Only one guy, Mordecai (a Jew), wouldn’t do it. As you can imagine, this ticked off Haman big time. So much so, that Haman didn’t want to only kill Mordecai, he wanted to kill all Jews. Yeah, Haman was a real piece of work. He had issues.
Later in the book, Esther (who was made queen), invited the king and Haman to a banquet. Here’s what happened when Haman left the banquet:
9 Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home. Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” (Esther 5:9-13)
When Haman left the banquet he was “happy and in high spirits.” He was in a great mood, feeling on top of the world. But all that joy was shot to craps when he saw that Mordecai showed him no respect or honor or reverence.
When he arrived home, he went on to brag to his family about how great he was and how everything was going his way. But in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t mean a thing to him because of this little distraction and preoccupation called Mordecai the Jew. Haman couldn’t be truly satisfied, he couldn’t enjoy any of the pomp and circumstance surrounding him because of his preoccupation with one guy. He fixated on this one distraction.
Let me ask you two questions:
- What preoccupations or distractions or little nuisances have filled your mind lately to the point of your missing out on something greater? Unfortunately, little things like the person who drives us crazy at work can tend to steal our joy. The unkind comment someone made to us a couple weeks ago can linger and affect our enjoyment of the present. The comparison game can cause such preoccupation that we can’t be satisfied with who we are and what we have.
- What would you like to be preoccupied with? Paul writes in Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not earthly things.” You see, we have to stay focused on what’s good, godly, and right. Things that God creates, God ordains, God blesses. Those things are worthwhile, important, meaningful, and significant.
If we could only be encapsulated with God and His Word, maybe, just maybe, all of life’s distractions and preoccupations we experience are nothing more than teeny, tiny, pitiful pebbles in our shoe…