Decades ago, when my wife, Kay, and I were courting, we would exchange excruciating love letters loaded with syrup and spirituality: “Dear Kay, I love you so much, hallelujah, praise the Lord, but not as much as I love Jesus, glory to God.” Yuk.
We were very keen young Christians, and our enthusiasm for Jesus also extended to the stickers that adorned my car. The 1956 Austin A35 was a rust bucket with a driver’s window held closed by rope. But we were determined that our motor would be a jalopy for Jesus. We stuck a fluorescent yellow “God loves you!” sticker on the boot and sported another decal that advised fellow motorists: “In the event of the rapture, this car will be driverless”. We had enough fish stickers to make it look like a mobile aquarium.
One Sunday, during an afternoon drive, a police car appeared behind us, siren blaring. We were somewhat mystified – we hadn’t been speeding - but thought perhaps the officer had been impacted by our witness wagon and wanted to become a Christian.
We were wrong. He approached the driver window, and waited patiently while I untied the rope. “Young man, I’ve pulled you over because you were not driving with due care and attention,” he snapped. And then came the excruciating follow-up: “The reason for the erratic driving is this: you and your girlfriend were kissing while driving.”
I flushed crimson red, because we were guilty as charged. We stammered out an apology, and he left us with a warning: “I’m not going to give you a ticket, but be warned – you need to focus. FOCUS!”
We were mortified, not least because our mobile smooching was hardly fitting for the occupants of such an evangelistic motor. The memory is still burned into my heart all these years later.
Following Jesus requires focus and intentionality. But for me, the last three years have been loaded with anxiety and distraction. We stayed home, rotated cotton buds around our nostrils, hoped for a vaccine and buried loved ones. Covid-19 saw me abandon my exercise routine, binge-watch Netflix and put on 20 pounds. Life and ministry continued, but my focus was eroded.
The apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to “run your race to win” (1 Corinthians 9:24, TLB). And he exhorted the Phillippians: “So let’s keep focused…If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.” (Philippians 3:15-16, The Message)
The writer to the Hebrews echoes a similar call: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Hebrews 12:2, The Message).
Perhaps the primary enemy of faith is distraction rather than temptation. Rather than marching into moral madness, we meander into a Christianity that is a dull habit. The seed of the word is slowly suffocated by the cares of life, as Jesus taught in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13).
So for me, I’m back, eyes focused on the track, heart on the prize. Sometimes I stumble rather than sprint, but I’m in the race again. If distraction has bedevilled you, perhaps it’s time to make some changes.
And if your car carries a Christian fish, and you feel the need to kiss, please wait until you get home.