Does the name Robert Hichens ring a bell?
If you’ve heard of the Titanic and the surrounding story, you’ve indirectly heard about Robert Hichens. By many accounts, he was the unfortunate soul who was steering the boat when hull met ice which cost over 1500 souls their lives.
Few recognize his name, but everyone recognizes his mistake. Maybe that’s because it’s the same mistake many are still making today.
Whether Hitchens and the crew didn’t see the iceberg, didn’t heed warnings, or whatever other excuses they would have conjured up, it didn’t matter. They ended up sailing a course, the wrong course, and they all paid the price.
How many of us do this today, just on a smaller, more day-to-day scale? We lose sight of where we’re going, what we’re doing, what’s right in front of us, and we look at other things, other people.
Getting distracted and losing sight of what’s most important is nothing new – the Titanic sank in 1912. This was before the people who invented the internet (a whole new opportunity for distraction) were even born. Unfortunately, social media has only perpetuated the problem of distraction.
Hold on – this isn’t about dogging social media, but it is about focus. It is about keeping your focus on the right priorities God's laid out for you so you stay on the right course without sinking your ship.
Focus vs. comparison
I’ll fast forward – you might remember 2016 a little better than 1912. The summer Olympics were in Rio, and Michael Phelps was facing off with a Brazilian guy named Chad le Cros in the 200-meter butterfly competition.
The two had a history of drama, with both besting the other at different competitions. However, the famous photo that day seemed to end the saga and settle the dispute once and for all. The picture captures Cros glancing over at Phelps mid-race, moments before Phelps took home the gold.
Countless people have no doubt seen this picture, with that famous line resonating clearly. “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.”
The difference is the focus. Cros was looking at Phelps while Phelps was looking at the finish line.
No doubt, you’ve heard it all. Social media is a common topic of discussion, both for people saying it’s nothing to be worried about, and for people claiming it’s Satan’s favorite pitchfork.
I don’t believe it’s either of these extremes, but I do believe you should be aware of it. That iceberg in the North Atlantic wasn’t an inherently bad piece of ice – it was simply a piece of ice that Hichens and company fatefully ignored, and that ignorance was enough to sink the unsinkable.
I’m not saying social media is bad, I’m just saying if you ignore its effect on your life, it can sink you too.
The intrusion of comparison can throw you off course or sink you if you let it.
You’re living your life, accomplishing the normal objectives each day presents. When suddenly, you catch a glimpse of someone else’s monumental occasion, his or her glorious achievement, and you hold that up beside your own life like two X-ray scans side by side, and your heart sinks. There is no comparison. Theirs is bigger, better, shinier, etc.
Thou shalt not covet
If you chart your own course with the sole objective of catching that person or matching his or her winnings, then you’ve effectively veered off the course you were supposed to be on.
I heard someone remark about the devil once, and I believe it belongs in this discussion. “If the devil can’t slow you down, he will try to speed you up.”
It makes sense the devil wants you going at anything but God’s pace – residing anywhere but God’s will. And social media can certainly accomplish that task if you let it.
John just graduated with a degree, and I’m not even in college.
Mary just got a ring on her finger, and I’m still sharing TV dinners with myself.
Henry just bought a new Lexus, and I’m still driving the ole’ high school gas guzzler.
These areas are the obvious ones concerning the commandment “Don’t be jealous” or “Thou shalt not covet,” depending on the version you’re reading.
But the area in which I’ve heard mostly radio static is how this principle applies to Kingdom work. You’ve heard it said, but I’ll say it again for emphasis: Not everyone is meant to be a missionary. Disciples of Jesus are meant to make more disciples, but not necessarily only through overseas mission work.
Your calling might be the office building right down the road where you drive every day at 8 a.m.
But when social media sprang up in the 21st century, a new model of coveting sprouted right along with it. Now, the missionaries among us post about all the mission trips that are taken. This, of course, is not a bad thing, but just like the iceberg, it can have a negative impact if viewed improperly.
If it’s not God’s calling on your life to be a missionary overseas, don’t be a missionary overseas. If God’s calling you to India, go to India. The discerning factor you should rely on is God’s voice in your life.
The pace of your life is seldom going to match someone else’s, but if the devil can get you to attempt “catching up” with whoever’s post you keep looking at, he’s got you looking at the wrong thing. You’ve lost sight of what’s right in front of you, and have diverted your attention somewhere else.
If Hichens had a do-over, I’m guessing he would have given the iceberg priority over whatever he was doing at the time.
Learn from his mistake. Keep your eyes focused on the route God has placed right in front of you, and sail your course well.