You are not that important
“I don’t know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal… People know me… I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.”
My friend didn’t expect this quote from the movie Anchorman to do much besides provide a chuckle. But the restaurant host who asked if he had a reservation immediately looked embarrassed, apologized profusely, and whisked him away to a special table…
Now it was my turn to be shocked.
It can be fun to pretend we are super important, even if we don’t expect anyone to believe us. Why should they? We aren’t really that important.
Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t realize how self-important we actually believe ourselves to be.
Like when we can’t turn off our phones or computers because we are afraid we won’t be reached “in an emergency.”
I read the following words this week from Carey Nieuwhof and they arrested me: “You know we’re really less important than we think we are, and everything people think is an emergency isn’t really…”
He shared these words in the context of encouraging me to use the Do Not Disturb functionality on my phone (I say “me” and “my” because I felt like he was writing just for me. I seriously struggle with running from email to text to voicemail–though perhaps I’m not the only one).
Seriously, try it. It will simultaneously free you and ruin your life… Why? Because you’ll be free of the interruptions that so often derail your focus and prevent “deep work” or full presence. It takes some time, perhaps as many as 25 minutes, to get back into that fragile but generative “groove” of work or thought that checking an email or text hijacks. But ridding yourselves of distractions means people can’t contact you… and you can’t respond immediately (gasp!).
I guess if Jesus could find a remote place from the crowds and pray, even while the sick and hurting needed healing; perhaps I can step away from my email for an hour.
I’m not that important that the world needs me and my immediate response to keep spinning. Sometimes I just need to be reminded that texts, email, and voicemails will be there when I finish sermon preparation or a family meal. My email will still have all the latest conversation threads when I depart from the person in my company.
My presence with others, my family, my friends, and the high calling of proclaiming God’s life-giving love are important enough to deserve my undivided and focused attention.
And I suspect the same is true of you. God has entrusted to your care some amazing people, projects, and possibilities. In this fast-paced, hyper-connected information age, where marketing is built on attention-stealing, the people who truly stand out may be the ones who best deploy their attention.
So give it a try. Use that under-utilized Do Not Disturb function on your phone or smartwatch–especially during family meals. Or, perhaps, find a location free of the usual distractions to focus on a conversation, a meal, or a project.
You are not that important that you must respond to everything trying to snag your attention; but your creativity, your quality of thought and work, and your loved ones are.
See you Sunday,
PS – I just started a new book called Deep Work, which explores some of these themes related to the way we structure our attention at work and home.