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Focus Up

By Michael Roop

This is the third blog in a five-part series. To catch up on previous articles, click here.

My first attempts to mow our lawn had mixed results. The lines were wavy and abstract, and certain portions of the grass got multiple passes. My problem wasn’t a lack of effort. As I turned the mower for each new pass, I concentrated hard on the row I had just finished, watching my wheels closely and keeping them just on the other side of where the previous cut ended. But try as I might, I just couldn’t cut a straight line.

That’s when my dad stepped in. A seasoned expert in caring for his lawn, he showed me that my lines were crooked because I was looking in the wrong place. When I turned the mower to start a new pass, I needed to pick a point straight ahead of me and fix my eyes there until I came to the opposite edge of the yard. Doing so, I looked back to see that I had cut my first straight line. And, unfortunately, I had earned myself a chore.

As we continue reflecting on Solomon’s timeless advice to keep our hearts with all vigilance (Prov. 4:23), we come to the second heart-keeping discipline. Last week, we looked at the discipline of putting away crooked speech. This week, Solomon continues with this command: “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you” (4:25).

Solomon knew that the object of our gaze has major implications for our lives. Maybe he learned that lesson when he heard the circumstances of his older brother’s birth, when his father David’s wandering gaze landed on a rooftop and a bathing woman (2 Sam. 2:11). Maybe he even connected his father’s gaze to the moment sin entered the world, the moment Eve “saw that the tree was good for food” before she desired, took, and ate of its fruit (Gen. 3:6). Solomon had lived long enough to learn what Jesus later taught: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matt. 6:22-23).

I’ve heard it said that we too often fight the battle of temptation on the field of desire. In other words, once we’ve already seen something enough to desire it, we then attempt the (near impossible) task of resisting our desires. Solomon’s wisdom seeks to break that cycle. Fight the battle, he tells us, on the field of our sight. What holds our gaze is what we come to adore, what we long for, and what we obtain no matter the cost.

Of course, once we’re told not to look at something, it’s all but guaranteed we will eventually sneak a peek. That’s why Solomon’s command is stated in the positive. Determine what you will look at, not what you will avoid seeing. Or, to put it in the language of Hebrews, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

So what enjoys your gaze these days? Whether occupying your literal sight, or your ears, or the constant rumination of your thoughts, where are your eyes fixed? It may be that the object of your gaze is not immoral, but it will nonetheless have a formative effect over time. Is it your device? Social media’s curated and deeply unrealistic portrait of a worthwhile life? The pundits on cable news shamelessly peddling fear and anger to increase the value of their ad space? The stuff your neighbor has that you don’t have but want to have?

As you look to the right or left, do you find at the end of a pass that your lines aren’t as straight as you intended? Take Solomon’s advice, and that of all Scripture. Fix your eyes upon Jesus, knowing that one day, we will look upon His face (Rev. 22:4).