Which comes first? Can you have just one? Does one cause the other?
These were the questions I pondered as I went on my morning walk/run with God this morning. I wanted to know which one, focus or passion, came first and if there was one without the other or does one lead to the other and if so, which one leads to which one. As I entered into my walk with God I just began to meditate on these questions and then asked God to help me to understand.
I began to think back on my own life and how things went for me personally. I remember thinking back on the many times I would call my mom asking her why I wasnâ€™t happy. I couldnâ€™t work enough, have enough money, be in the right relationship, climb high enough on the career ladder, go to school enough, accomplish enough, and do enough to fill the huge empty void in the center of my soul. I wanted constant change and challenge because that allowed me some relief to the huge emptiness that dwelled inside me but as soon as the change became common and the challenge was conquered I would again be reminded of the huge void. Thatâ€™s usually when I would call my mom in desperation to ask her why I wasnâ€™t happy. And inevitably she would refer to some scripture in the Bible or in her so delicate southern drawl say, â€œWell baby, you know the Bible saysâ€¦â€¦â€ AHHHHHHH!!!!!! I didnâ€™t want to know what the Bible said!! I wanted to know something relevant, something that I could do today to be happy!! I wanted to know what my problem was, why I couldnâ€™t seem to be happy. What was the purpose of this life?
Arenâ€™t we supposed to be happy? If not, whatâ€™s the point? But the answer I was looking for never came in any other form than her reminding me that God is good and loves me and â€¦.andâ€¦.blah blah blah. I would hang up and cry unable to answer the question that had so long eluded me, â€œwhat is missing in my life?â€ I have a good husband, good family, good job, good church and enough money to pay bills and buy groceries. Of course I would love to have bigger house, more money, happier kids, a more understanding husband, etc., but for the most part, I had a good life. Over a period of years after figuring out mom would only refer me to the Bible and God, I turned to another source to answer my questionsâ€¦â€¦.Google. I know, go ahead and laugh. I can now too looking back but it reminds me of how desperate I was for answers. Obviously, I never received the answer I was looking for there either. My â€œhow to be happy, what is Gods will for my life, help me!, whatâ€™s the meaning of life and on and onâ€ Google searches did not give me what I so badly wantedâ€¦..answers to where to find peace, joy, happiness. So I continued on my desperate journey of seeking where the answers I so desperately needed would never be found.
I grew up in and around church. I must say that the ones I was around did little in teaching me what I needed to be a victorious Christian and so I wasnâ€™t one. In my continuous attempt to seek out happiness I began looking for love in all the wrong places, after all if I didnâ€™t have the answer surely I could find it in a relationship. I was close as far as needing a relationship; it just wasnâ€™t with a person. Many bad decisions and heart ache revealed that to me.
It was my loving Father in heaven himself who told me the one answer that had so longed been kept secret from meâ€¦â€¦. several years ago, I was on a morning walk complaining to God as usual about all the things that that were not right in my life. God was what I complained to, not who I talked with.Â I had just finished another rant to God about how tired I was of being a Christian and being miserable. I looked at the world around me and thought how happy they looked and how much more they enjoyed their life more than I enjoyed mine. I did not possess the life that I had read about in the Bible and had even heard the preacher preach about.Â I was talking to him and had just said, â€œIt would be better to be like them than trying so hard to be good and always failing and being miserable with no happiness, joy or peace. As soon as those words were uttered from my heart, I heard a very stern and unmistakable voice say, â€œYou donâ€™t even know ME.â€
I stopped dead in my tracks on that old dirt country road in shock that I had heard him so clearly. A peculiar ache raced across my heart. Again he spoke as though I didnâ€™t get it the first time, â€œyou donâ€™t even know Who I Am.â€ I was dumbfounded, speechless for a few seconds. Then I thought quickly with my heart beating out of my chest, I have His attention! So I thought, if going to church eveytime the doors were open, being involved in church stuff, praying when I needed something and reading the Bible when I had time (which was what I had been duped into believing led to a close, intimate relationship with God) wasnâ€™t how one would know God then what in the world would I have to do to know HIM????? I did not have this answer and since God was talking back I decided to ask him just thatâ€¦..â€How do I get to know YOU?â€Â At this point the conversation had come up from my heart and when I asked God this question, the words actually came out of my mouth, and when I heard my own words I was startled at first because this conversation had become so real. Again I heard God speak and he said, â€œSpend time with Me DAILY by talking with Me and reading My word.â€ As soon as he spoke those words to my heart I grabbed hold of them. I can do that. I will do that. If thatâ€™s what it takes, Iâ€™m willing. I just never knew it was a daily relationship with God that I was missing. I finally had my answer I so longed for!
I was getting up already at 5:30 am to drink coffee, workout and get ready and get the kids ready and go to work, but I decided instantly that I was going to get to know My God. So I asked my husband to wake me up 30 min earlier in the morning and I was going to start reading the Biblefor 30 minutesâ€™ every morning. And I did just that. I didnâ€™t ask him where to start reading so I just started in Genesis, where else. It wasnâ€™t a perfect walk and there were days when I would wake up late or was sick, but most of the days I made God my focus and read the Bible.
So what came first?Â Passion or focus? I obviously wasnâ€™t passionate about God at that time and I certainly wasnâ€™t focused on him either. I kept up my commitment to spend time with him daily, at first it was more out of curiosity and despair than anything else. I wanted to know if I started to read the Bible daily if it would make a life changing difference.Â I wanted to know if I let God into my daily life if I would find joy and happiness.
I will say that focus came first, intentional focus. I began to focus on the word of God. I began to meditate on the words and meaning to different stories and scripture. Over time an amazing thing began to take placeâ€¦..I was becoming passionate. When I say passionate, I mean I had a strong stirring, a strong desire to be with God, spend more time with him, and read the Bible more. I became intrigued by God. I began to think about Him and His ways more and more. The desire for change and challenge became less and less and flitters of peace and joy began to emerge. It was almost unnoticeable at first, but I began to have a stronger and stronger desire to please God when before pleasing God was not on my top ten list of priorities. Another little gift came as wellâ€¦.conviction. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I was saved. I had accepted Jesus at a young age and tried to be good and do good, but was met with defeat and failure. I knew right and wrong, it was just the power to do wrong would overtake my desire to do right. Conviction came a little quicker and was a little stronger than I had remembered it being before when I did or said something I shouldnâ€™t have. With conviction came a desire to repent and turn from sin. What followed was more peace and more joy. That began to guide me to a more righteous path in living. It felt so good to chose right over wrong.
This transformation did not happen overnight, or even in months. The process was slow and steady, almost at a rate in which I felt no progress was being made, but it was. I could always look back at where I had been compared to where I was and on most occasions I was in a better position than I was. I will make a note here where I said â€œon most occasionsâ€. Do not get the idea that Satan packed me a lunch and sent me on my merry way with Jesus, oh no, quite the contrary. Bigger traps were set than before; distractions became more in number and stronger. Oh yes, I struggled on this new path, but something was distinctly different, Someone was with me and stronger than before and I relied on this fact to help me. It took some time and scolding but eventually by the grace of God and the help of his Holy Spirit, I began to get back on track and each time a little stronger, a little more determined to stay the course.
More bible reading and studying was done, more prayer was uttered more seeking was done to find God in all circumstances, not just the good but the bad as well. Over time, and I mean years, much counsel with God among other preachers, Bible teachers, I began to wake up with God on my mind, thinking of him throughout the day, asking him random questions about what he thought about this or that, singing songs of praise and worship, at night as I lay my head on my pillow IÂ thank God for the day whether it was a good one or not and just spend the last few minutes of the day telling him how much I just loved him and how thankful I was for him being in my life. I often drift off to sleep in the sweet presence of the Lord.
Now that is passion. So now my focus and passion is God, God and more God. I just cannot get enough of him. No matter how much time I spend with him, I want more. No matter how much he speaks to me, I want more.Â Your passion becomes what you focus on. We all have a responsibility to intentionally live our lives and that is why we were created with a mind to choose.Â Choose to be intentional about focusing on God. Make a commitment today to get to know God by spending time with him, talking to him and reading His wordâ€¦..daily and wait expectantly for the transformation to begin.Â After all, he did write that Bible for you and gave you his Holy Spirit to teach you his truths. So go find your Bible, dust it off, set a time when you want to meet with him every day and let passion for God overtake you. That is the purpose of this life and the root of all joy and peace.
By Annette Redman
Matthias Browning | Reporter