Study Guide: Deceptive Dots

Sunday March 18, 2012 | Sandra Unger

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

A GPS system will show us our exact location at any given time, and for certain phones, it is a little blue dot. However, just because we are physically somewhere does not mean that we are present in the situation. In this sermon, Sandra shows us some of the common distractions to being present and a distinct truth about why we are so busy.

Extended Summary:

Oliver Burkeman said, “Telling ourselves we’re hugely stressed makes us feel important, in demand, even energized; it also gives us permission to avoid confronting deeper issues…Busyness is the perfect excuse; if you’re convinced that you’re overstretched and overwhelmed, you’re spared the terrifying prospect of actually doing the things, and making the changes, that you want.” Busyness gets in the way of being fully present in our lives. It interferes with what we value and our relationships.

There are two kinds of presence. There is the type of presence where you are physically present with others. This is a physical presence. There is also the type of presence where you are fully present where you are. This requires emotional, spiritual, and mental presence. It is not easy to be present in both ways, and while there are many barriers, three of them seem to loom large.

The first barrier to being present is understanding what we value in this world. It is easy to see that being busy adds value. If we are constantly wanted and needed, then we feel that we are important and valued. We have one foot out the door whenever we get ready in the morning. Checking emails while eating dinner isn’t out of the question. And while we may be with people, that doesn’t mean that we are there with them.

This world wants us to have a quantitative impact on this world. The more meetings we attend, the more people we interact with, and the more stuff we get involved with will make us better people. But this only keeps us busy. Rather, we should turn our attention to a qualitative impact on this world. Instead of reaching hundreds with minimal interaction, we should make time for a few with maximum interaction.

The second barrier to being present is distractions. There is a significant media distraction in our world. Whether it’s tweeting, facebook, or killing pigs with birds, we like to distract ourselves and keep ourselves busy. But these distractions draw us away from being present in our lives. And while sometimes it is ok to zone out and relax, we have to be careful that we aren’t doing it to avoid things in our lives.

The final barrier to being present is a lack of defined relationships. With the advent of facebook, we suddenly have hundreds of friendships and interactions online. The real question we should be asking is: “Who should I be present with?” Trying to be present with everyone is to be fully present with no one. In Jesus’ life, he had 12 disciples. Of those 12, he was especially close to three of them. This type of qualitative interaction with a few people defined his life on this Earth. While he did help thousands, he invested in a few.

We must have defined relationships in our lives in order to focus on specific relationships. Family and close friends should get most of our time. Strangers and outside events should get less time. By focusing on the relationships that are important, we can begin to be fully present in those relationships without worrying about the less important relationships.

We should gather a close community and practice being fully present with each other. By spending quality time with these people, we will begin to see that a few, intentional relationships are worth much more than many, unintentional relationships. To do this, we have to say no to some good things, for even good things will distract us and keep us from being present. Focus on the intentional relationships and you will begin to see that being present with others in a quality way isn’t as difficult as you first thought.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Do you find that you are not fully present in your relationships, and what does that look like?
  3. How does technology distract us from being present in this world? In what specific ways does it distract you?
  4. What would it look like for you to define your relationships in your life? How might this help you be more intentional with fewer relationships?
  5. Think about the things you value. Are you spending enough time being present with the things you value? What would it look like for you to be more present with them, and how might you accomplish this change?