I went on a walk last week in the desert mountain park near my house. I had recently purchased a new camera, and I took it with me to try out some of the settings. The sun was shining, and I was wearing sunglasses, which made it difficult to see the image on the camera screen. Much of the time, I was pointing the camera and shooting without knowing what the final picture would look like. One photo of a bird surrounded by the bare branches of a Palo Verde tree did not work out at all as I planned.
When I got home and transferred the pictures to my laptop, I was disappointed to see that I hadn’t captured any details about the bird in the photo. The camera had focused on the empty branches instead. It reminded me of a quote from a movie that often pops into my head. In Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn tells a young Anakin Skywalker to watch him and learn from him. “Remember,” he says, “Your focus determines your reality.”
What Qui-Gon was trying to teach Anakin was that our perception of reality—what we think is happening in the world around us—will influence us more than what is really happening. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to our focus.
Anakin, who resented leaving his mother behind so he could learn to be a Jedi, focused on his distrust of the Jedi Council and was easily deceived by the enemy of the Jedi. He also focused on his own talents and felt he wasn’t given enough responsibility or respect. All he could see was what was missing from his life, because that’s where his thoughts and feelings were focused. If he had adjusted his focus to see himself as part of the bigger mission of the Jedi and see all the people who the Jedi protected, his future life might have been very different.
Unfortunately, too many people interpret Qui-Gon’s words differently. They think if they focus on something hard enough, if they want it sincerely enough, if they convince themselves they deserve it, then they will get the future they imagine. They pay attention to their focus, but they focus on themselves and miss the bigger picture. They think they are creating a reality for themselves. But instead they are ignoring reality—and they may end up regretting it.
In his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus made it clear where the focus of his people should be—on God and on others. Not on ourselves. Not on our needs and desires. Not on our disappointments or the people who have offended us. Not on what we can gain in this life.
Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)
God is the really real. He is the creator of all that is. When we keep him in focus, instead of ourselves, we can begin to see the world as it really is, and we can play the part God designed just for us. If, instead, we focus on ourselves and what we want or think we need, we might see only the empty branches instead of all the beautiful things God has in store for us.
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Stories are a metaphor for life. That's a deep way of saying we can learn life lessons from stories we read or watch on stage or on big or small screens. When viewed through a Christian worldview, even secular films and books can tell us something about our Christian walk. Here you will find a collection of blog posts with lessons I have learned from stories. I hope you enjoy them!