Find Your Focus

By Julie Rhodes

If you caught the Tony Awards last week, that says something about you. I don’t think anyone really “catches” the Tony’s. If you watched them you probably made a PLAN to watch them, and I am one of those jazz-handed planners. Stage acting is magic to me — the immediacy of it, the sorcery of a real person becoming another real-ish person, in real time, in front of other real people.

How does a performer achieve this magic? In his classic textbook on acting, Constantin Stanislavski wrote about a concept he called “solitude in public.” He’s talking to an actor in front of a huge crowd: “You are in public because we are all here. It is solitude because you are divided from us by a small circle of attention. During a performance, before an audience of thousands, you can always enclose yourself in this circle like a snail in its shell” (“An Actor Prepares,” p. 90).

A small circle of attention. A public solitude. The ability to enclose yourself in a privacy away from the glare of the lights and the buzz of an audience’s collective expectations and hopes. It’s an issue of focus, and it’s a hard discipline to practice for an actor. It takes years of endurance training. It’s also a hard discipline to practice as a Christian.

Christians, after all, are just people and people are naturally distractible, hopped up on busyness and carried along by their desires and fears. An actor focuses on an object or a person right there on the stage: the end of a pen he’s clicking, the petal on the flower in the vase on the table where he’s drumming his index finger, the green, sparkling irises of the person directly across from him. These points of focus help ground him and keep the immediacy of a scene. What’s been the object of YOUR focus today?

Scott Foundation 2

Maybe you’ve been hearing a lot about Foundation at IBC. It’s a 9-week experience designed to help you live in the rhythms of a disciple of Jesus. The word “disciple” sounds a lot like “discipline”, and that’s a daunting idea to many of us. But just like the actor who intends to create something real and beautiful on the stage, the Christian cannot escape what’s required to live a real, beautiful, immediate life — a circle of privacy with Jesus himself.  

An IBCer named Harry was asked to write about his Foundation experience. I love his vulnerability: “Before Foundation I was spiritually stuck. Through an honest examination of my life, I was exhausted from ‘doing ministry’ and not spending quality time with the redeemer of my soul.”

Can’t you relate? I can. Running around in front of everyone, going and doing and being, my inner self scattered to the wind, like a public machine without a private soul. This is my default setting.

But God has made a way for me to enclose myself like a snail inside a shell. Jesus called this “remaining” in him. “I am the vine; you are the branches,” he says. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). When I remain in Jesus, the footlights fade, and the murmurs of a thousand people dissipate like steam.

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Spiritual rhythms help cultivate this privacy with Jesus, this remaining; things like prayer, solitude, study. These disciplines focus us and enclose our hearts. Through Foundation at IBC, Harry has found huge riches through these things. He says God has shown him that spiritual rhythms are not only vital, but also a delight. “Jesus longs to spend time with me and invites me to walk with Him daily!” he wrote. I could hear his excitement from across the email interwebs. These are words of joy restored.

As we celebrate all God has done through this past Foundation season, I hope you’ll engage in an honest examination of your life. Are you operating out of a private connection to your redeemer, or just pushing to please a crowd?

There’s a more joyful, more immediate, more beautiful life available to all of us if we’re willing to find our focus.

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