This month I flew out to Colorado to visit my sister, my brother-in-law, and their precious little girls. One evening, I floated into the nursery where Avery was laying on her back, enchanted by the melodious caterpillar mobile above her head. The toy, “Freddie,” had hung over her older sister’s head only a few years before. Her gray-blue eyes darted to me as I leaned over the white bar of the crib.
For spans of time, Avery captivates me––my eyes connect with hers, and my focus settles on her sweet face and animated expressions. It’s hard to pull away. Both the tender innocence and serious curiosity that flash across her face are almost too precious to behold. My eyes only shift to observe her kicking feet or flailing hands––when they’re not shoved in her teething mouth––but not for long. It’s her face that draws me back in.
Engaging with Avery absorbs all of my attention, whether she’s asleep in my arms or discovering the toys encircling her while she learns to stand in her bouncer. I’m not thinking about twenty-two other things. While I look at her, my thoughts are wrapped up in matters that concern her––another bottle of milk, sitting up to burp, a fresh diaper, a chance to squirm on her playmat. The distractions both around me and within my head fade like background music. Perhaps the gift such a small human like Avery gives to an adult like me in those quiet moments is unhindered focus. Oh, how her intense look remind me that Christ calls for our gaze to be ever fixed on Him!
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Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).
Do you notice the contrast the author highlights for his reader? He calls those who name Jesus as their Lord to throw off the hindrances of the sinful nature in order to run with perseverance––dynamic actions that are not the least bit passive. But then he continues his sentence urging us to maintain a steady posture––fixing our eyes on Jesus. This combination beautifully reveals the active obedience and the resting trust that should characterize our lives with the Lord. This race of faith we are called to run is not a striving hustle to the finish line; it is a marathon characterized by devotion and faithfulness to the Lord. And for our sole focus to be on Jesus does not mean we become robotic beings, gazing up at the sky, perpetually saying “I’m looking at You, Lord.” It means what Paul says in Colossians––our attention is pointed toward Christ, so that whatever we are doing or saying is done in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17).
Perhaps this language in Hebrews and Colossians sounds too idealistic or poetic to our ears, especially as it breaks through the din of our distracted minds and frantic thoughts. So much other stuff both pulls and receives our attention throughout the day––we are torn by the present realities of family, work, or school while navigating a current of information coming from any number of websites, news outlets, or social media feeds. Fixing our eyes on Jesus can easily slip by as another option of where to place our attention on a given day.
The anthem of our lives ought to sound like how Eugene Peterson phrased the Colossians verse in The Message. Let every detail in your lives––words, actions, whatever––be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
Every detail. Every step of the way. Our race of faith is truly all-encompassing, and as believers, we are forever found in Christ. Fixing our eyes on Jesus is not an emergency answer or even our optional choice but a daily yes to His Lordship in our lives. A yes infused with trust and joy because we are focused on the One who authored our faith and is Himself the object and end of it. A yes that is wrapped up in thanksgiving; that is, with our attention fixed on Jesus, our words and thoughts are characterized by gratitude and praise.
Perhaps the value and necessity of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus diminishes as other things and other people capture our attention more. This decrease comes at the cost of our increasing pride––we think we shouldn’t need Jesus as much as we do. I am tempted to believe that fixing my eyes on Christ is just for “beginners,” for believers who are just getting started. I should be able to navigate on my own. Oh how we prize our self-sufficiency. In His great grace, God––through the truth of His Word, the ordinary duties of our daily lives, as well as the weight of unexpected trials––leads us back to the humbling truth that we always need Him.
In His kindness, His Holy Spirit reminds us that we have been created for communion with God. He has made us for Himself, so to fix our eyes on Him is not only necessary but also a gift for every day of our lives. Maybe like me, you are learning to be a life-long learner of Christ and uncovering greater joy in needing Jesus. Indeed, there will be growth––as there should be––but the growth will never include not needing Jesus or graduating from the position of fixing my attention, my affections, and all my hope on Him.
My prayer for you, as we close this first month of a new year, is this, my friend ~ that your joy would overflow as Jesus illuminates your need for Him, that your eyes would shine with richer hope because you are gazing at your Savior.