Currently I’m struggling with creating boxes for myself in different areas of my life. Are boxes inherently a good thing or a bad thing? Here are some of my different boxes: work, spiritual life (relationship with God), relationships with others, home life, future, money, etc…
Perhaps this isn’t a terrible thing, as looking at these individually will allow me to process and work through what I want to get from each area of my life. Dividing them up doesn’t allow me to get overwhelmed, it creates boundaries and space where needed. For instance, when I get off work, I’m able to disconnect and put work into a box that doesn’t need to be thought about. This allows me to fully engage with whatever I am doing. If anything other than the activity I am currently invested in starts to interrupt, I have two options.
How to be present
Option one: Try to dismiss those thoughts. I do this by engaging in the activity I am currently doing. Whether I am with friends or working, I actively take my thoughts and focus on that thing. This allows me to be present in what I am doing. I think being present is one of the hardest things to do in the culture of smart phones and distractions.
One of the easiest ways to be present in any given situation is to get rid of possible interruptions. When my phone is my pocket, I can feel it vibrate when someone texts, calls or I get a notification. Even the possibility of my phone lighting up is a distraction. A funny side note: this JUST happened to me as I’m writing this article. I got a notification on my phone, which made me think about something completely different and got me sidetracked. How many times does this happen to the average person on any given day?
Option two: Fully engage in thinking about the subject of distraction. Let’s think about our jobs, as this takes up a significant portion of our lives. Sometimes it’s healthy to think about and process work outside of work hours. It’s how your brain copes with whatever is happening. There are moments that you need to spend either talking through it with someone or internally processing your work day.
Allow this to happen and fully engage in it when it does. Sometimes it’s hard to predict when your mind will need to process things, but when the time comes, don’t run away. Calmly allow yourself to think about how you are responding or why you are responding the way you are. Perhaps journaling, talking with someone or going for a walk will help.
Doing these things will help you in the process of being present. Even the practice of thoughtfully thinking through the areas of your life will help you be present when your presence is needed.
Difficulties of boxes
But I believe there is a danger in creating boxes and keeping our lives in separate little containers in our minds. First, it gives us the ability to be hypocritical. I can live a totally different life in one box than in another. This used to happen to me on a consistent basis when it came to church. As soon as I walked into church, I became the “good Christian”. I knew what to say, how to say it, and I knew all the answers to the Sunday school questions. This was my God box.
The problem was I had so many other boxes. And most of those boxes didn’t have anything to do with God. Whatever I was doing in my “home box” or my “friends box” became easy to rationalize whenever I wasn’t in church.
God wants to be in every box of our lives and I believe that if we allow Him in, then He will help us to healthily process all the areas of our lives. It will also get rid of the hypocrisy I can so easily allow into my life.
One of the best ways I know how to be present is to leave my phone behind. I find that I can concentrate better on the task at hand or the person that is right in front of me. I find that I can enjoy each moment and fully enter into each situation. Distraction can be the enemy of being present.
Jason LaLone was on staff at YWAM Brisbane and is currently in America working with Truro Anglican Church located in Fairfax, Virginia. He is passionate about discipleship, taking Jesus’ command to make disciples a practical reality that he can live on a daily basis. He loves lasagna, cats and used to dislike Mondays, making him most like Garfield.
Jason LaLone’s previous articles might be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/Jason-LaLone.html