A commercial jet overflew it’s destination airport by 150 miles and might have gone a lot farther had a flight attendant not come into the cockpit 15 minutes after their scheduled arrival time to ask what time they would actually be landing! It was 2009 when Northwest Airlines flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis/St. Paul stopped responding to ATC for approximately 80 minutes. Air Traffic Control or ATC, coordinates the flights of ALL commercial air traffic in the United States. There was real concern that the aircraft had been hijacked or had experienced a catastrophic event that had incapacitated the flight crew.
After all attempts by radio and secure text messaging had failed to get a response from the pilots of the jet, NORAD was preparing fighters for an intercept. The pilots didn’t re-establish contact with ATC until they had completely overflown Minnesota, were over Wisconsin and had already turned back around. The FAA launched an immediate investigation, accusing the pilots of falling asleep. The pilots claimed that they were having a “heated discussion” about airline policy and were preoccupied with their laptops in the cockpit. Regardless of what actually went on in the cold night sky, there is no debate about the fact that they totally lost focus of the task at hand. The pilots were summarily fired, their licenses revoked and many changes were made regarding flight crew distractions in the cockpit.
The ability to stay focused on one’s primary responsibilities is absolutely essential for success in life. Period. But that’s easier said than done. Interestingly, sometimes the greatest risk to distraction is when things around us do NOT demand our greatest effort for attention. A friend of mine, who managed a steak restaurant, told me that his cooks made the most errors with cooking steaks when things were slow, not when they were busy.
How do these things relate to our lives? Have you ever heard of A.D.D. or A.D.H.D.? Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are complex brain disorders that are well known and also hotly debated. Without going too deeply into the debate, persons with these disorders appear to lack the ability to consistently stay focused on what is most important. They tend to be impulsive and unable to differentiate between core goals and unimportant distractions. If one cannot decide what is important and cannot stay focused on the task at hand the results will be troublesome. Other than our Lord, no one who has lived to adulthood on earth has not sinned. How is it that Jesus was able to be sinless? Why was Jesus able to always “go about doing good” (Acts 10:38)? Why did He always have such compassion for those who were around Him (Mat. 9:36;14:14)? Why was He able to be tempted in all things just like us and still not sin (Heb. 4:15)? Some explain the Lord’s behavior by saying “He was from Heaven and it was easy for him.” But that does not fully explain Him nor does it help us.
The short answer as to why Jesus was able to do for others and serve God so well and do so sinlessly was because He was extremely focused on doing just that. He knew exactly why He was here, what He needed to do and He did not allow himself to be distracted from his goal, at all. By the age of 12 He already declared that He “must be about My Father’s business” (Lk. 2:49). At one point He told one of His best friends, ...“get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men,” (Mat 16:23).
Perhaps A.D.D. is the right term to describe a lot of our behavior as struggling Christians and we need to focus. Or are we asleep? In Romans 13:11 Paul spoke to that too, saying “it is high time to awake out of sleep.” Maybe what we need to focus our lives is a direct address from the Lord with the request “May I have your attention, please?”
- Tim Orbison