Something embarrassing happened yesterday. Something many churchgoers, including myself, would also consider a major pet-peeve.
Let me explain.
My mom flew in for a visit and agreed to come to church on Sunday. The last time she came there was a guest speaker, and it was one of the hottest days of the summer. So we were really looking forward to this visit, since the senior pastor was presenting the next piece of an extraordinary series.
We got there early and grabbed three front-row seats.
As the pastor started the sermon, I could feel it would be profound. We all sat in silence as he spoke deliberately, tying in quotes and examples. The packed two-story church fell silent.
And suddenly, in one of those silent moments, my cell phone went off.
The ringer was set on the loudest volume level. My purse had a locked front latch and two, no three, no four inner pockets that made finding anything impossible.
I scrambled for my purse, hurdled over my husband, and ran for the doors. Opening the purse would be one issue, but actually finding the phone in the purse would be another. I rang all the way to the exit.
When I re-entered, one of the associate pastors reminded me that the church was packed and I couldn’t return to the front row. He disappeared behind the door to find a seat in the back. I stood there blinking to myself.
As I sat away from my family in the back, I felt tempted to dwell on how this all turned out.
I wanted to refocus on the sermon, but more and more thoughts swirled around in my mind.
Was Mom OK up there in the front row?
Would my husband wonder if everything was alright?
Did I disturb the pastor’s train of thought?
The sermon was still going. Everyone was listening. I didn’t want to miss a word.
But it happened again.
Did the associate pastor think I was irresponsible?
Were the people looking at me, wondering where I just came from?
I was still sitting sideways in my seat. Focus, focus!
Things didn’t go as planned that morning, and I was tempted to feel like it was my fault. But then I caught myself.
Yes, my phone went off during service because I forgot to check the ringer. But it was an honest mistake.
Yes, we were all seated apart, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t focus on the teaching.
In all that excitement, it made me think about my focus on God. When something unexpected hits, big or small, how safe is my focus on God? How safe is yours?
When distracting thoughts fly about in our mind, we can hold to God like a pillar that stands strong in all the chaos. We may get hit with some stray pieces or scratched and bumped, but we hold on and keep breathing.
Peter tells us to stay alert: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). In all situations we need Him, but especially in those moments when outside forces work to push us around, confuse us and throw us off course.
A cell going off in church is a little embarrassing and momentarily disruptive, but this same kind of scenario plays itself out in a number of ways in the course of our daily life.
Lord, help us stay focused on you, even in the most dizzying moments. Help us to trust you in all matters.
After the sermon I moved back to my seat for the closing worship. Mom seemed to really enjoy the message. My husband moved back too, since he was re-seated after looking for me. We discussed the sermon afterward, just as I had hoped.
And the call? Wrong number.