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Where you focus - John 21

Today we come to the end of our study of the Gospel of John.  In chapter 21 we are told that Jesus appeared to the disciples one more time.  The disciples were at the end of an all night fishing trip, where they had caught nothing, when they saw a person on the shore.  The person asked if they had caught anything and they said no.  The person then told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they would catch some fish.  They cast the net and caught so many that they could not pull the net in.  When Peter realized that the person on the shore was Jesus he jumped into the water to greet him.  The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the large catch behind them.  They ate fish and bread with Jesus as they talked.  Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, giving Peter a chance to proclaim love once for each time he had denied him.  After each time that Peter assured Jesus that he loved him, Jesus told him to feed or care for his sheep.  Jesus and Peter went on a walk together.  The enigmatic "disciple whom Jesus loved" followed behind them.  Since Jesus had just told Peter how he would die, Peter asked about the disciple following them.  Jesus told Peter that it should not matter to him, that Peter should focus on following him.  After telling us all of this, the author of the Gospel of John tells us that he is the "disciple whom Jesus loved".  

When I was working as a foster parent I was in charge of a house of 6-9 boys as a solo house parent.  All of the other house parents were couples, but since my boys were usually older, we only had one foster parent for the house.  Since I had previous experience with working with challenging behavioral issues, I often ended up with some of the younger children in an attempt to keep them from getting kicked out.  My neighbor house-parents sometimes seemed abrasive and harsh with the kids to me.  They loved them deeply, but their style was very different from mine.  One day, after raising my voice with one of my more challenging kids, I started feeling the Holy Spirit prodding me to go make amends.  In prayer I found myself asking the same question Peter asked: "What about them Lord? They are so much more harsh than  I am.".  The gentle prodding of the Spirit reminded me "What is it to you what I do with them...follow me." 

Far too often we use the example of others as a distraction tool, to keep the focus off of us and on other people.  We use it both ways, but always to our advantage.  When a teenager wants something they are quick to remind us that "everyone else has one" or "everyone else gets to do it".  When they feel singled out they say "what about them?" pointing out their sibling's faults instead of their own.  These arguments don't work for us as parents, but we still use them with God.  Some of us may refine them a little, but we still use them.  The answer is always the same: "What is that to you... follow me".  It almost sounds harsh, but when you follow it, it is life giving and it feels like freedom.  

When I apologized to the youth I mentioned earlier it led to a stronger relationship and I felt more free and full of life than I did when I was internally asking about how God was going to handle those other "problem" house parents.  When you find yourself stuck comparing yourself to others, pause and remember that you can choose to focus on the distraction, or you can focus on Christ.  If you focus on the distraction then Christ will seem to get smaller and the problem will get bigger until it seems overwhelming.  If you focus on Christ then the problem will fade into the background.  We can really only focus on one at a time.  

God, help us to focus on you and take our eyes off the distractions.  Amen


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