I recently spent a week volunteering at a summer camp. It was a blast as always! This summer we played a game we call “Leader Hide and Seek.”
The game is simple. Eight or so leaders hide throughout the campsite. The campers travel as teams trying to find the leaders. When found, the leader signs the campers’ signature card. The campers then continue hunting for the other leaders. The team of campers with the most signatures at the end wins.
They gave us leaders a head start while they explained the game to the campers. As I trotted away from the group, I pondered where to hide. The trees near the cabins worked well last time I played, but I saw two or three others heading that way. Perhaps I could duck behind the fire pit walls? No, the campers were sure to find me there.
Instead, I headed toward the teepee. However, again, several leaders were heading the same direction. Perhaps the long grass in the poplar tree stand would give me enough cover. When I got there, the grass simply didn’t seem thick enough. Perhaps that was due to the hot, dry summer we’d had.
I frowned. There had to be a good hiding place around. I eyed the nearby clusters of bushes. They had sparse wild raspberries growing around the outside, but in the middle, thick stalks of a bush with large leaves would serve me well.
As I burrowed my way into the largest bush, I was glad I’d worn long pants and a long sleeve sweater with a hood since some of the plants were prickly. I found a clear enough space inside the bush where I could crouch down, hiding even my face from sight.
By now, I could hear campers on the move. I stayed motionless as some drew near on their way to the teepee.
When their voices drifted away, I allowed myself to sit up in an attempt to relieve the numbness from my crouched legs.
Again voices drew near. I lowered myself and crouched motionless. It seemed one of the teams was arguing amongst themselves.
“But I want to pick some raspberries.”
I froze. If they paused to pick raspberries, they’d likely spot me. Maybe I’d chosen a bad hiding place!
Another teammate spoke up. “We need to check by the teepee.”
“But I want raspberries.”
“Don’t get distracted. We need to stay focused and find more leaders.”
“Oh, fine. One more raspberry, then I’m coming.”
I didn’t dare release my breath until all their voices had faded considerably. That had been close. Their teammate’s distraction had almost led them to their goal – finding a leader.
I laughed at the irony of it. We typically consider distractions to be bad. They are what keep us from reaching our goals. This time, however, the distraction of raspberry picking nearly led them right to their goal.
As I sat quietly in my hiding spot waiting for someone to find me, I pondered the irony of it. The distraction, quite the opposite of being a hindrance, had so nearly enabled them to achieve their goal.
I wondered if there might be an allegory for me to learn from. Are there things in my life which I class as distractions that are actually the key to succeeding if only I’d give them space?
Now, please don’t misunderstand. There are many bad and destructive distractions that exist to sidetrack a person and reek havoc in their life. Therefore, careful discernment and weighing of good and evil in light of what the Bible teaches us is necessary.
Having said that, I do believe there are times when what I classify as a distraction from reaching my goal, is actually the very best thing I could be doing to help accomplish God’s goal for my life.
In Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV we read,
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”
Sometimes, perhaps far more often than I realize, my primary goal or plan is not what God has in mind. His plans are better.
Perhaps the clearest example of this we find in the Bible is the story of Mary and Martha. I’ll summarize it here, but to read the whole story go to Luke 10:38-42.
Martha welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home. She hustled about busily serving her guests. Her sister Mary, however, did not help her. Instead, she sat near Jesus listening to His words.
When Martha asked Jesus to tell her sister, Mary, to help her, Jesus replied,
“‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42 NASB)
Martha’s goal was to serve and host Jesus and His disciples. From her perspective, Mary was distracted. Rather than helping Martha accomplish her goal, Mary sat idly listening.
Jesus’ perspective was different. He knew that, while there are times to serve, there are also times when the very best thing we can do is pause to listen to His Word.
So what do I classify as a distraction?
At camp there were times when I had somewhere to be and a job to get done, but a couple of the campers wanted to chat. Did I brush them off as a distraction? Or did I pause in my busyness to take a few minutes to connect with them?
What about in my daily life? Do I take time to read the Bible? Do I allow myself needed rest? Do I pause to connect with those around me even when the dishes are begging to be washed?
I suspect that in every season of my life there will be something I am tempted to classify as a distraction, when really it is the very thing God would have me make time for.
What about in your life? What have you deemed a distraction which may actually be the very thing God wants you to be doing?