Okay, so I'll admit it. I was distracted in church this morning. Someone was saying something, or reading something, or maybe praying something, and I was somewhere else entirely. I wasn't leading the service, you'll be relieved to hear, and during the things I've done today which have required real attentive concentration, I've been there with every fibre. However, maybe because I wasn't leading this morning, my mind wandered a bit. (Don't tell me you've never been there.)
And what places it wandered to! What to cook for someone who's coming round (in quite some detail); replaying a conversation I had with someone the other day (again, in quite some detail); wondering how someone else is getting on. I was brought to by a particularly odd detail in the Bible reading, which spun off into a whole new distraction; what would that sound like to someone for whom this is the first time they have walked through the doors of a church? Why is the Bible so strange in places? Wouldn't it be more suspicious if it weren't strange? Are we a bit too squeamish these days? Anyway, what to have for dinner...?
I was going to blog about his distraction-experience earlier, but then, you'd never guess what happened? Yes, I got distracted again. First by an unexpected phone call, then by this. As I started to read about Cyril of Alexandria's Christology (which hadn't been on my afternoon's to-do list), I gazed through the crack of an open door into a whole room full of distraction. (Another of today's distractions has involved lions in the Old Testament).
As I look back over a day in which, as well as doing work that has both been planned and has required a great deal of emotional involvement (I wasn't distracted during the funeral), I have meandered a bit, I can't help feeling that distraction is, on the whole, not a bad thing. After all, it's taken me to some pretty interesting places today, places that I would not have written into my diary to visit. And when I think back to this morning's musings, well, I can't help wondering if our distractions can be, in themselves, a kind of inarticulate prayer. After all, it was to people that my mind was wandering. People about whom I care, people whom I want to serve, to understand better, to interpret the Bible for meaningfully, people whose company to enjoy; people who lived centuries ago and wrote words that endure; people who turn to these words to articulate a shared faith; people who reach across time and across cultures to find a deeper unity beneath the things which differentiate us from one another; people to cook something really nice for. Maybe our distractions take us to places that are more deeply authentically expressions of our concerns and prayers than anything we could put into words ahead of time. Maybe distraction isn't the worst thing you could do in church. (Unless you're leading the service, that is...)