Man Up Musings - Man Up Adventures

Guard Your [Attention Span] With All Diligence

Nathan Thompson

“Guard your [attention span] with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life.” — Proverbs 4:23 NHEB, edit mine

Yes. I know. That’s not what it actually says, but that’s how the Lord ever so gently brought it to me early this morning in my prayer time.

“Guard your attention span.”

It was one of those moments where, deep down inside, I just knew. There were no explanations needed. I understood the implications and the hundreds of layers of thought that were being presented in that holy moment.

“Guard your attention span.”

Immediately my thoughts flashed back to the high water moments of my spiritual life. The mornings where I woke up with an insatiable thirst for the word of God. The occasions where I’d put life on hold because I just couldn’t wait to be with Him any longer.

Why is it that those moments too often seem so far away?

I felt God nudge my heart again.

“It’s your attention span.”

If you haven’t noticed lately, you’re in a war and the prize being fought for is your attention — even your unconscious attention.

Distractions abound on every side. Twenty-four hour news cycles sensationalizing every little twist and turn in corners of the world that, for the most part, aren’t even remotely related to your every day life.

If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, the battle has gone so subcutaneous, that even our unconscious attention is being warred for.

No? How many times in the last week have you picked up that pocket sized super computer (that doubles as a communication device) and woke to active consciousness to find yourself mindlessly scrolling, scrolling, scrolling…

Then there’s our on-demand queues. Endless black holes of ceaseless entertainment. Enough meaningless distraction to waste your life and mine, nine times over.

The internet is bursting at the seams with countless studies that all confirm the same thing: If you’re an average American doing average American things (translation, your face is uncontrollably compelled to be plastered to a screen) your attention span is plummeting (along with your self-discipline, I might add).

One such study links the following negative effects to shortened attention spans:

  • Inability to complete daily tasks.
  • Missing important details or information.
  • Communication difficulties in relationships.
  • Poor health related to neglect
  • Inability to practice healthy habits.

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That last bullet point pretty much sums up the struggle. The inability to practice healthy habits.

Like cultivating your own relationship with God?

This, without question, represents the single greatest Christian struggle. (And hence, why Christians struggle with everything else. A completely different blog post for some other day.)

The truth of the matter is you need frequent meaningful moments of communication with God in order to make it as a Christian. It takes intentionality and the ability to focus in order to realistically carve out the time and space for those moments to happen. Your attention span plays a vital role in carrying this out on a frequent basis.

I don’t need an Oxford study to tell me how my shrinking attention span impacts my relationship with God. I can see it playing out every day in my life. The question is what am I — what are you — going to do about it?

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As God softly spoke to me this morning, the ache in my heart and the tears on my cheeks confirmed the truth in His words. My attention span has been shrinking because I’ve given my attention to smaller, less significant things.

The size of my primary focus will indicate the length of my attention span.

During an intentional time of self reflection this morning I realized that the very things that have been shortening my attention span have also been the things that have been polluting the spring of my heart.

God’s words, “Guard your attention span with all diligence” were an invitation to look beyond my recent inability to focus, and dig deeper into what I was giving my attention to, and the level of priority it held in my life.

It was a call back back to singularity and simplicity of focus. It was a beckoning to fix the eyes of my heart back on Jesus.

In chapter 12, the author of Hebrews writes, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

In Psalm 57:7 David wrote, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.”

Friends, that’s exactly what we need to do. What our eyes and hearts are fixed on is usually a pretty good indication of what/who we’re worshipping.

It’s all tied together really. What we fixate on, or give our priority attention to, is what we allow into our heart. To guard our attention span is to guard what we allow to impact out attention. To guard what we allow to impact our attention is to guard our hearts.

Let’s not allow the trivial to rob us from triumph. Let’s recommit to the One who saved us. Let’s put first things first. Let’s focus, fix our eyes and hearts on the God who saves, heals, and brings real life.

Here's a song to get you kickstarted on your journey: First Love Fire — Leeland

So how can you guard your attention span? Guard what you give your attention to.

Here are a few practical helps that we can practice together:

  • Schedule occasional personal, or family-wide, no screen time. Eat snacks and play a board game together. Go for a walk, hike, or a bike ride together. Sit around a campfire together.
  • Schedule time for personal devotion right away in the morning when you wake up. Give your attention to God before you give it to the chaos of email, texts, social media, or news.
  • Get a Bible with pages in it. Don’t tempt yourself by bringing your phone or tablet into your devotion time. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
  • Practice fasting to help mortify your flesh. Fasting helps me make great strides in the area of self-discipline when it comes to where, who, and what I give my attention to.

Stay Encouraged,

Nathan J Thompson

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