by Sandy Mayle

I had finally found clothing that fit me. Or so I thought.

After shopping our sizable mall, visiting department stores and looking online over a period of a couple weeks, the hunt had become mind-numbing, frustrating. Too many choices. Too many ill-fitting choices!

I finally returned to one store and found slacks that seemed to fit reasonably well. I came out of the dressing room and exchanged them for a different color, same size (I thought). But when I got home, they were definitely too large. And when I returned the next day, the smaller size was not available anymore… aaaargh!

During the same time period, I visited Cleveland Clinic with medical concerns that prompted the rheumatologist to order twenty-some vials of blood drawn. The test results, available online, began to pour in and I started to google the abnormal results. What did they mean? What was wrong with me?

All that shopping and researching was unsettling. To make it worse, here I was feeling scattered and frustrated when the Lord had recently given me four specific areas on which to focus my time, energy and prayers.

The first and overall focus was to be devoted to being close to Him (from Jer. 30:21b NIV). Actually, this had been my life-verse for many years, urging me to go beyond recognizing my sins and inherent sinfulness, repenting and receiving His forgiveness, into an ever-closer relationship with Him. But now God was calling me to be even more intentional about it.

The remaining three assignments, at least for this season, were to care for my husband, pray for one of my grown children in particular, and write (I’m a freelancer).

I’ve welcomed these focuses. They give shape and momentum to my praying and doing. They prompt me to say, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Ps. 16:5-6 NIV).

But it seems that boundaries don’t often go unchallenged. Eventually things like shopping or test results or any of a thousand other things come uninvited. They amass along our borders and, if allowed, will trespass on our secure lot, trample our pleasant places, gobble our assigned portion and drain our cup.

It seems strange, I know, but God has a way of speaking to me at times through Webster’s Dictionary! And one morning He dropped, one by one, several words into my quiet time:


“To draw in conflicting directions; create conflict or confusion.” Well, that had certainly been happening. And since “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor. 14:33), that left the scheming enemy, the enticing world or my own selfish desires. Whatever the source, the ploy had been successful.


“To fix or settle on one thing… to direct one’s thoughts or efforts; concentrate” and “to adjust one’s eye… so as to make a clear image.” I was beginning to realize how short my spiritual attention span often is. I not only wanted to get focused; I wanted to stay focused.


“To make accurate by regulating.” I needed to cooperate with God, allowing outward life-changes and inner recalibrations to be made so that His purposes become increasingly clear and crisply defined.


 “To increase the strength… or intensity of;” “fix one’s attention.” That’s what I wanted – a firmed-up and resolute concentration that locks in on God’s specific assignments and refuses to be diverted.

God and Webster were making their case pretty clear: distraction draws me apart, splinters me and creates inner conflict; spiritual focus centers me on God and the assignments He’s given me. Distraction draws me away from inner peace and a sense of God’s presence; a holy concentration brings the serenity that comes from sharing God’s perspective and helps to clarify the best use of my time, mind, energy, resources, and affections.

How could I – how can each of us – do a better job, then, of avoiding distractions and increasing concentration on what God wants? What adjustments might be needed?

The Holy Spirit calls us to:

  • Choose to be relentless in the holy pursuit of the concentrated life. To be vigilant to protect and promote God’s purposes for us and to seize opportunities to increase the intensity of our focus.
  • Ask for and embrace God’s specific focuses in each of our lives. Commit to intentionally living out His will instead of existing unfocused and scattered.
  • Ask for and welcome God’s specific boundaries that will protect those priorities (even simple guidelines – for instance, God finally limited my search for interpretation of test results to just one website).
  • Pray to recognize distractions quickly so I could see them for what they are: threats to God’s highest purposes and thieves of inner tranquility, intimacy with God, and Spirit-led usefulness to Him.  
  • Choose to be relentless in the holy pursuit of the concentrated life. To be vigilant to protect and promote God’s purposes for us and to seize opportunities to increase the intensity of our focus.

We can only live this concentrated life by depending on the Holy Spirit’s power. Only by the Spirit will we fix our thoughts and desires and efforts on God’s personal plan for us. Only by Him will we experience growing inner peace and purpose. This applies to clothing, to test results, and to every challenge we face in our lives.

Only by welcoming the Spirit’s instruction will we learn to welcome God’s assigned portion, walking within His boundary lines and enjoying the pleasant places He’s prepared there.

Sandy is a freelance writer living in Erie, Pa. She loves words, nature, and solitary retreats. Her newest venture is mentoring in the equine therapy program at a nearby horse ranch. She and her husband, Dave, have three sons and three grandchildren.