He sat at a family sized table alone, pouring all of his attention into the Study Bible opened before him. I imagined that the baked potato sitting at his side grew colder by the second and wondered if it felt neglected by his lack of interest it. I sat enjoying my own meal and as I watched his fixed attention on the wrinkled pages before him, my curiosity only grew. The questions became a pile in my head and before I knew it my two legs were bee lining me to the lonely man. It was only as I stood before him that I realized that I had no sort of a plan; something that is very unlike my cautious, doesn’t approach strangers unless I really have to, demeanor.
I sat down and launched into my jumble of questions. He smiled at me and answered simply then, he asked me what I knew about the book in front of him.
“I certainly don’t know everything about the Bible,” I stumbled over my words, “But the most important thing I know about this book is that it is a story about how Jesus loves me. It tells a story about how I was lost in sin and hopeless to save myself and how God, being rich in mercy, found a way to bring me to Him. He sent Jesus to die a death that, because of my sin, I deserved to die. I believe that Jesus paid the price for me and because of it I am free from the punishment I deserve. I have hope in the fact that Jesus is preparing a spot in Heaven for me and will return to take me home.”
Our conversation plunged deep into theological ideas as we shared what we had learned while studying the Bible. This stranger had years of life experience on me and all I wanted to do was sit and learn.
Then he said something that stuck to me. An air of confidence and purpose filled him as he said, “There are two things that put me at an advantage when compared to the world around me. The first being that I have been forgiven for more sins than any of the rest. The second being that I lead a life that is as void of distraction as it can be.”
This made me lean in close as he proceeded to explain his latter claim. He no longer had a wife, his children were gone, he only used the internet to study the Bible, he owned the simplest phone he could, he had no TV, no dog to feed or walk. When he went home at night he had his Bible. When he was alone, he was with Jesus; digging in and learning about the God he so dearly loved.
He used 2 Corinthians 4:18 to explain why he chose to live a life so free of distraction. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV).”
What we see is all around us. Lift your eyes from these words, what do you see? All of it is temporary. One day it will no longer be. Our world is ruled by mindless distractions. The Devil uses these temporary things to slow our pace as we run after Jesus. How much of your time do you pour into temporary?
But what is unseen is what will last. Our God is unseen. Our souls are unseen. These are the only things that will last and so this is where we must fix our eyes and focus our time. My restaurant friend has it all right. He is fixing his eyes on Jesus and caring for the souls of the people around Him by sharing Jesus with them. Any moment that he has, he spends it connecting his heart to the Lord’s or sharing what is unseen with people around him.
He challenged me. I was able to look at my own life and see places where I allow distraction to rule my life. There are temporary things that the Lord is asking me to use as a tool, but how often do I allow these things to keep me away from chasing after the only thing that will last: my Father in Heaven and His love for me?
I do not know where my friend is now. When we parted ways he left me with a hug and his phone number on an old dentist appointment card. But the Lord used our time to spur me forward and encourage me as I pursue a life that is not numbed by the distractions around me but rather used purposefully.