Writers Note: During Lent, I will be posting about several things that can knock us off the path and keep us separated from God. Today’s first post, inspired by True Detective, is about the price of paying attention to the wrong things.
One of my favorite shows of the last couple of years has been True Detective – the first season of course. I made the slog through the Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn -led second season that never seemed to end mostly out of loyalty to the first incredible season.
A hallmark of the first season was the theme of focusing on the right things. Whether it is the case in front of you, the marriage you are rapidly sabotaging or the fraying relationships that will somehow survive, the characters always seem to return to the truth that in order to draw the correct conclusions you have to pay attention to the right details.
That’s put best by Marty, played by Woody Harrelson, who in a reflective moment identifies the Detective’s Curse. ”You know the detective’s curse? The solution was right under my nose but I was paying attention to the wrong clues.”
What Marty was saying, of course, is that when you are trying to determine exactly what has happened and organize everything into a coherent story, you have to pay attention to the right things. There are loads of details and plenty of information you can follow, but if you don’t pay attention to the right things and you don’t eliminate the wrongs ones you will never find what, or in their case who, you are looking for.
That isn’t just a Detective’s Curse, of course, but this is a challenge and a curse we all face. All of us know the incredible amount of things and information that we have the ability to pay attention to. In fact, it seems there is an infinite amount of topics that invite, or sometimes, even demand our attention.
That’s because we are bombarded by an almost constant stream of events that often seem to be nothing more than opportunities to provoke conflict and outrage. As a lifelong ESPN watcher I know how easy it is to get sucked into the latest sports moment and Embrace Debate. In the middle of a Presidential primary, it is quite easy to get sucked into stressing and obsessing over the differences, both perceived and actual, between each major party’s candidates.
On the one hand there is nothing wrong with being informed about sports or politics or pop culture or any number of things. But when we spend so much time paying attention to those things we lose the chance to focus our attention on the things that will draw us closer to God.
Lent is one of the most fruitful seasons of the church year for a lot of people because it invites us to make a serious audit of our lives. During these next few weeks we are invited to name the things that most separate us from God and identify the ways we prevent ourselves from living the holy life that God wants us to live.
I’ve always been drawn to the idea that Lent can be a pruning – a time to cut out the things that need to be released in order for our lives to flourish and grow as God intended. One of the best ways we can do this is to pay attention to what we pay attention to. We can only become the person that God wants us to be if we pay attention to the right kind of things.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to do this, but two of the best I’ve found are devoting myself to reading and praying Scripture and practicing gratitude. I’ve found that spending even a small amount of time reading Scripture every day can help you reorient your life and pay attention to what God is up to and how God is at work in your life.
It is equally true that one of the most reliable ways to change your life is by spending five minutes every day thanking God for the good things that happened that day. Taking even a few moments to be thankful will change your attitude, make you a better spouse, and will lead you to stop paying attention to the wrong things and instead focus on the countless ways God is at work in your life and in the world.
If you want to have a good life, you have to pay attention to the right kind of things. Meet Jesus again and practice gratitude. You’ll be thankful you did.