There is a phrase that I have used over the decades, whether it be from the pulpit, from the school room or in the home, and that phrase is “Your Focus determines Your Future”.
What does that really mean? I have thought about that lately and without trying to be pinpoint precise, this is what I have come up with. Our focus can be the lens or perspective through which we observe life in general and specifically how we view scripture. In my own life, especially in the earlier days, I would say that I had the tendency to focus on the “What” and very little time on the “Why”. I would look at what people were doing without asking myself the question “Why are they doing that?”.
Why is this so important? Well, first off, “What” has the tendency to look at the surface and measure it up to a personal perceived standard. This has the potential to view someone as less than what we are because certainly I would never do what that person did. Without realizing it, what I have now done is devalue someone based on my own perceived standard of what value is.
I have often heard it said, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” (for us Canadians that would be 1.6 kilometers in his shoes) I jest…. All that put aside, though we see what is going on, we have little to no idea of “Why” it is going on. Perhaps the asking why takes too much of our time or perhaps it is easier to judge someone by their surface actions. Wait a minute! Did mom not say that we are not to judge a book by its cover? OOPS! Unfortunately, too often we will not take the time to read the book.
When I look at the life of Jesus, I see a person who would read the pages of someone’s heart and ask them a question instead of giving them an answer. He would do this so that the person he was speaking to would have the opportunity to discover an answer themselves. I think that too often we are looking to be told an answer rather than discovering an answer within. Perhaps it is easier just to do what we are told to do, so that we fit in with the group. The problem with that is that there is little internal reality and all we have left is an external obedience, which is not the basis for a healthy relationship.
Let us use a biblical example. How about the word “sin”? In the Greek we define it as “Missing the mark as in archery”. The phrase “Missing the mark” can be viewed on the surface with “What” or we could look deeper to the “Why”. With our Greco-Roman Western world view we have the tendency to look at the surface with “What”. Sin then, is the bad thing that we did, and our answer is to “Sin no more”. Someone shoots the arrow and misses the mark, and our solution to that is to stop missing the mark. At best that would be a Band-Aid solution because if the fruit on the tree is bad and we keep removing the bad fruit, all the tree can do is produce more bad fruit. The problem is not the fruit, there is a problem with the tree. Minister to the tree and find out what nutrients are missing and remedy that and you will find the tree growing good fruit. In other words, the question should be “Why are we missing the mark?” Ancient Hebraic thought on sin is that sin is blindness, therefore the reason we missed the mark is because of poor sight as one could not see the target clearly. Give the person a pair of glasses so that he can see the target and now he has a better opportunity to hit the mark.
Jesus said that He came to bring sight to the blind. Unfortunately, we tend to think of natural blindness (which He did that too) but the greater purpose was to open our eyes to God and His kingdom, to see what is rather than what is not, to see who people are rather than who they are not. If we see someone missing the mark because of their external actions, then we can ask ourselves “What can we be for that person to aid them in having their sight restored?”
I would dare say that “Why” is far more relational than “What”. Often, we fight with our spouse or our children over a “What” which in itself can bring a separation rather than discussing the “Why” and giving opportunity for growth and intimacy. “Why gives the opportunity for understanding, it does not necessarily condone ones’ actions, but it does give a greater opportunity to walk forward to a healthy solution.
If we find ourselves acting harshly toward others in a judging manner then perhaps, we should ask ourselves if we are viewing the situation through the lens of “What” or the lens of “Why” because at the end of the day, your focus will determine your future!