I have ADD.
When people hear reference to ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), they think of the dogs in the Pixar movie UP! or maybe Dory from Pixar’s Finding Nemo. (I promise not to mention Disney movies in every sentence.) Being easily distracted and forgetful may be part of it, but there’s a lot more to it than most people realize.
ADD is more complex than short attentions and memories.
In the past few years counselors and psychiatrists have begun using a new label: VAST. It stands for Variable Attention Stimulus Trait. I like this because (1) it doesn’t carry the stigma of a word like “disorder” and (2) it better describes my experience.
Yes, I can be often distracted. I interrupt myself incessantly. I’m easily overstimulated and get irritable with repetitive or conflicting noises.
And, yes, I struggle with short-term memory. (Lists and calendars save me daily! You should see my collection of notebooks.)
But my attention and my emotions ricochet to opposite ends of a spectrum. They’re not always short and interrupted. Sometimes they’re intense and insular, sacrificing all else.
I can spend seasons in hyper-focus. My husband calls it “kidnapping.” A special project or pursuit (or sometimes a book) will steal me away with little notice. I simply cannot think of anything else until I finish it. This is especially true when I set a goal about which I am passionate. It could be days; it could be weeks.
Friendships are hard for me. I can’t remember names. Interruptions and disappearances aren’t great for relationships. Knowing how hard it is for me to control these natural inclinations, I can grow self-conscious and insecure, further complicating things. Rejection, criticism, and approval resonate deeply with me, often — right or wrong — becoming part of my self-assessment immediately.
Can any of you relate to any of this?
When life gets full, the blog goes silent.
And so — When life interrupts me, when a million things seem to happen at once, I disappear. I dig deeper into what seems to need my attention most urgently (real life people and problems within arm’s reach), and other things have to wait (online communities and seemingly inconsequential projects).
What has required my attention lately? Moreso than this blog?
Quite a few things, actually. Spanning personal, professional, and ministerial. Those who subscribe to my newsletter got an update in their inboxes a couple weeks ago.
(If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up here to join my Inner Circle of prayer warriors and fearlessly curious followers. If you are a subscriber and didn’t get the email, check your spam folder or click here.)
I’ll not apologize for being silent here. Other things have needed me. Truly and absolutely. I will, however, wonder if evil forces use all this to conspire against me.
I’ve been writing in relative obscurity for almost fifteen years. There have been seasons of prolific publication and seasons of abject futility. Each time I gear up for a re-start, with revitalized passion and purpose, life interrupts and my momentum all but dissipates.
That sounds as if I have no control. That’s not at all what I mean. I’m quite opposed to any semblance of victim mentality. I am, however, acknowledging that this makes me vulnerable to spiritual attack and blockades. And it makes my journey uniquely challenging.
Be watchful, mindful, and still. Work and trust.
In the New Testament we read:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
This warning comes at the end of Peter’s letter, just after a series of instructions for leaders in the church. The admonition, however, is not just for leaders. It is for anyone who seeks to follow Jesus and live a life dedicated to honoring God.
Let’s add a few more passages to this conversation.
Teach us to number our days,Psalm 90:12
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…”Psalm 46:10
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.2 Corinthians 8:11–12
What does any of this have to do with attention spans or spiritual attacks? I’m not just randomly cherry-picking passages. These are entwined in our daily walks with God. How?
We know that evil forces conspire to keep us from God and from good works. They will utilize our weaknesses in those endeavors. May we BE WATCHFUL. What makes you an easy target? How can you guard against those attacks?
May we BE MINDFUL of the gifts God has given us — me and you — but also aware of our weaknesses and limitations. Time is a big one. How are we using it? Are we remembering our finite reality and numbering our days well?
May we BE STILL remembering that God is ultimately sovereign. There is no trial he will not enter with us. No mistake we can make that he can’t redeem. No pit we can fall into from which he cannot lift us. He is good. We can spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. Let’s take some time to think about him instead. It is infinitely more comforting.
We love to quit, don’t we? Let’s not. Rather than seeing hurdles as signs that we’ve taken the wrong path, let’s view them as challenges we were meant to overcome. KEEP WORKING. Don’t give up.
That last passage, the one from 2 Corinthians, is striking me firmly this season. It sits in a chapter about generous giving within and between the churches. While the context is money, the heart of these verses goes much deeper.
Are you eagerly willing to complete what you’ve started? Are you excited to chase after the tasks God has given you? To pursue holiness in big projects and small?
That takes a lot of trust! Trust that God called the right person, that he’ll use you, that he’ll equip you… And trust that your success isn’t measured in human terms. How does one quantify willingness? How does one measure the spirit of obedience? It’s not about what we have or even what we give (of our time, talents, sweat and resources). It’s about our humble and faithful pursuit of righteousness.
In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:4–6
God is faithful and he will be faithful to complete what he started in each of us at salvation.
So whether I am eternally distracted or seriously under spiritual attack doesn’t matter. What matters is that I get up again and take the next step with God. And the next step. And the next step.
We may be running a race, but it’s not a competition. Keep running, my friends.