Ever wonder how it is people who were once on the same page or on the same side, can become people on divergent paths? Couples who once were so enamored with one another and had plans for a life forever; Christians who once fellowshipped together and worshipped together; Friends who enjoyed each other and looked forward to spending time together; these scenarios which seem to be expressions of an unbreakable bond can all come to an end. Why? How does it happen?
I do know that separation can take place because some real destructive behavior has appeared. There are also churches that split over essential elements of the truth. But more often than not, separation in relationships comes over time because of things much less important. I use the three words, distraction, diversion and division, to describe the process.
1. Distraction happens when we allow little things into our lives. For a couple, it might be a hobby or a friendship. And it isn’t hurting anything, in fact, it might be healthy for a while. It lightens the mood, helps us deal with the stresses of life. It may feel like a little “time-out” or reprieve from the demands of every day life. It can be fishing, or shopping, or motorcycle riding. In a church, it might be some of our spiritual hobbies like theology, current issues, etc.
2. Diversion is when a distraction becomes the path we begin to choose. Think of the word “detour.” A diversion is when you change roads and travel down the path of the distraction. It becomes the thing that drives you. That friendship gets distorted in its importance. Motorcycle riding robs you of time to do really important things like spend time with your kids. Or, your church preferences begin determining how supportive you’ll be of a ministry.
3. Division is when a diversion has become a set path and we begin looking at others and determining who is with me and who is not. “Join my path,” “Agree with me,” become our mantras. This division happens when we allow less important things overwhelm our commitment to the most important things.
Keep the important things important. When you allow distractions, and we all do, remember it is not the real thing! And be willing to drop it like a hot potato when it starts to supplant what should be your priorities. If it becomes a diversion. Stop, return to the road of your first priorities. Repair and reform the relationships of trust. If it has already created division, it need not be permanent. Recognize where you might have gone off course. And take whatever steps you must return to the values you once held dear.
Have you seen this process happen? What do you do to keep focused on what is really important?