Keeping Our Eyes Fixed on Him

"When I won’t put His Kingdom and His righteousness first, I’m easily distracted and frustrated by worldly things.” by Emily Marszalek

Not long after her first birthday, my dog Charlie began destroying household items while I was away at work. She began with a few small items to whet her appetite: a lotion bottle, a family photograph, a deck of cards, before swiftly hungering for larger, more expensive items. 

I came home from work one day to see she had chewed to pieces every disc in a workout set, cardboard, CDs and all. Clearly, she did not approve of me spending time exercising when I could be playing with her! Another day she pulverized a wooden trinket carved into the shape of Idaho, a priceless childhood memento gifted to my fiancé, Nick, by his parents. Other days she decimated wooden clothes pins, her toy basket, pens and hair ties. One day she even managed to unearth a stack of mail and chew Nick’s mother’s brand-new passport to shreds. She apparently did not like the idea of any of her loved ones leaving the country.

Hoping to avoid kenneling her during the workday, which was my last resort, I tried everything I could think of to reverse her destructive tendencies: new bones, interactive toys, calming music, arranging family member visits throughout the day and more. Regardless of such efforts, most days I returned to find evidence of Charlie’s destruction.

Her temptation to destroy anything and everything escalated to a peak during the Christmas season. One evening in December, I returned from work to find several round Christmas tree ornaments chomped into a million bits on the living room floor. “They are shaped like her tennis balls, after all,” I reasoned. “Simple mistake. I can’t be too upset about that,” I thought to myself, attempting to justify her actions. I spent the evening relocating ornaments out of Charlie’s reach onto the top third of the tree. 

The following day I returned from work to see shredded tree branches, a battered extension cord, broken lights and shattered ornaments littering the living room and kitchen floors. She had fully decimated my Christmas tree, which now looked like it had endured a category five hurricane, earning her the nickname, “The Grinch.” Unsalvageable, it swiftly made its way into the garbage, leaving me Christmas tree-less for the holidays. Ironically enough, the custom ornament from the year prior with her picture and “Charlie’s First Christmas” stamped below remained untouched and in pristine condition.

As Charlie never destroyed household items in my presence, I thought this surely must be a result of severe separation anxiety. Assuming she must be lonesome or anxiety-ridden in my absence, I decided to try leaving the blinds open to the large window facing the front yard and driveway so she could stay occupied watching for my arrival home each day. It was a last-ditch effort prior to kenneling her. I hoped Charlie would stay occupied watching cars and wildlife in the yard as she patiently waited for my little grey car to make its way down the street. I prayed she would be too focused to destroy. 

It worked. 

Staying glued to that front window all day long, keeping her eyes and thoughts focused on my return, never again did she destroy a single item in my absence. In fact, not once have I returned home over the past several years to not see her face in the front window, watching for my arrival home. 

As I reflected on Charlie’s tendency to succumb to temptation and get into trouble when her attention strays, I realized how much she and I have in common. Like Charlie, I get into trouble when I lose my focus and take my eyes off Jesus. When I don’t put His kingdom and His righteousness first, I’m easily distracted and frustrated by worldly things, resulting in caving to a host of temptations. From losing my temper with other drivers on the road or harboring bitterness towards a family member who hurt me to gossiping in the workplace, my flesh wins. Despite good intentions, I sin, failing to honor my Heavenly Father and failing to represent Christ well.

From Adam and Eve to the last human on Earth, we will all face temptation. Even Jesus faced temptation. Through His example, we learn how to keep our eyes fixed on our Master and avoid surrendering to temptation.

What did Jesus have to say about temptation?

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus asked His disciples to keep watch while He went a short distance off to pray. After praying deep, sorrowful prayers, knowing His fate to come, “he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41 NIV). Despite Jesus’ instructions, the disciples’ eyes were heavy and after another bout of prayer, Jesus returned to find His disciples sleeping.

My own experience struggling with temptation is testament to Jesus’ words: the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. I’m reminded of Jesus’ solution to temptation: to watch and pray. When I refocus my gaze on God, keeping His kingdom and His righteousness as my first priority, worldly distractions fade, and I’m reminded of what — and who — should truly hold my attention. Further, I’m reminded that I don’t have to face temptation alone. As we recognize the weakness of our flesh, we recognize our reliance on the One who strengthens us. While we will certainly face temptation in life, we can rest assured that we don’t have to face it on our own. As we submit to His will and humbly ask for His help to avoid yielding to temptation, He will strengthen us.

How did Jesus respond when He faced temptation? 

When tested in the wilderness, Jesus responded to each temptation the devil presented by quoting scripture. When we prioritize learning and studying the Word, it will be written on our hearts and flow out from our mouths. In practicing and remembering, we remain affixed to God’s truth and keep Him at the forefront of our minds.

Just as Charlie needed an open window to fix her eyes on the good to come, her owner returning home, we must keep our eyes fixed on our Heavenly Father through prayer and dedicated study of His Word. With our eyes fixed on Him, we will not be led astray. 

Photo by Eva Blanco iStock / Getty Images Plus  

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