When I turned into a teenager, several things happened. Teenage life was all about me, and in my eyes, my parents were far removed from “the real world.” After all, it was eons ago when they were young, they could never understand what I was thinking and facing in my world.
I became obsessed with those things that really mattered:
obsessed with being accepted
obsessed with my clothing
obsessed with my appearance
obsessed with being popular
obsessed with boys
And, in my obsessions, I lost sight of certain things, so that I could focus upon what was truly important to me at the time. I spent an inordinate amount of time getting ready. For hours upon hours, I strove to make sure everything was just right. For instance, I wanted to have lovely curly hair. Now, I do have nice hair, but it was not how I wanted it to be. My super-long, super-thick, super-straight hair wouldn’t hold a curl. Forget regular rollers, hot rollers, forget curling irons, it took me a long time and a lot of trial and error before I found the only way that I could get curly hair (no perms for me). I spent months on this issue!
I probably drove my parents crazy for sure. When we were adults, my dear brother, Scott, once told me that as a kid and teenager, I was high maintenance. Who? Me?
“All teenagers are self-centered and insecure.” Said Dr Laura Markham, Clinical Psychologist. I think she has that right. I watched as my son was growing up, he and his friends all morphed into self-centered, self-absorbed teenagers.
The old adage of the more things change, the more they stay the same, holds great truth. During our lives, we seem to predictably morph from one thing to another. We experience, we learn, we grow, we shift focus. I think that the thing that remains the same, is for those things that interest us, we focus an inordinate amount of attention. We pour over the object of our fascination whether it’s a person, or a habit such as shopping. We think about it, we may even research it in an attempt to immerse ourselves into the item of our affection. Occasionally, that upon which we’ve become fixated becomes a permanent, important, and constant part of our lives. But, for most of us, once satiated, we often move on to the next item that catches our fancy.
And, that’s something that we see repeated over and over again throughout history. I am spending more and more time in the Bible. I read the stories in the Old Testament on how the Israelites focus upon Yahweh when things get bad, they clamor for His attention, His intervention, His presence, His protection. God comes to the rescue, and they are saved. Then things start to get back to the status quo, and their minds and their affections wander. They may even complain as when then they did after God saves them from slavery in Egypt with some utterly fantastic miracles. They soon forget what God has done for them.
They flit to the next thing that they fancy. “Oh, look at what those Philistines have, I want that! Oh, I like that tradition that the Moabites have, let’s do that too! Oh, they have a god that controls this, wow, that sounds like a good idea.” Fairly soon, they are so far away from God and chasing the things of the world. God sends them people, prophets, that try to corral the people back into some sense of sanity. God calls them back, He pleads with them. And, when they are far gone, God sends things such as plagues, drought, and persecution to get their attention. That’s where we are when we read the following verse in Amos: “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” (Amos 4:12, ESV), I also like the how the NLT translates this verse: “Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced. Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!” (Amos 4:12 NLT)
I often want to climb into their stories, and shake some sense into them. Within those written pages, it’s so obvious what they are doing, don’t they understand? But, then I have to stop and think about this. I can insert myself into that continually repeating story of God pursuing His people, attempting to bring them back into the fold, into a relationship with Him in the Bible. But, how often do I fail to recognize that I too am just like those Israelites, flitting from one thing to the next, turning my gaze away from the thing that matters most – that is, God and my relationship with Him. I should spend more time thinking and occupying my time with God and the things that I cannot see, than with those things that I can see, taste, and touch. I am no better at all. The more things change, the more they stay the same indeed.
I however have one thing that those Israelites didn’t. I have a Savior. I have Jesus, He came and He sacrificed His life taking all my sins upon Himself so that I could be in a right relationship with God. I am declared not guilty. But, that doesn’t give me an excuse to continue to flit from one thing to the next without regard to how those things take my focus away from God. I want to tune into those things that matter to God, and tune out those things which get in the way. I want to be an even stronger woman of faith. I want to prepare for the day that I meet my maker. I want to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”