"You can't be all tangents and no center."*1

I remember being dumbstruck when I read this statement over thirty years ago. The statement is short, succinct, and clear. Like a well-sealed float, no matter how far down into the depths I have forced this idea, the buoyancy of its truth forces this thought back to the surface. In my hurried, harried, and often hectic life, the Holy Spirit brings this simple reminder back to me.

"You can't be all tangents and no center."

But I am often all about tangents — spiritually ADD. I am undisciplined and easily distracted. I like to chase new ideas. I want to examine new things. I want to learn a new song. I want to see the new movie. I want to download a new book on my Kindle. I want to smell a new Bible. I want to be moved in a new and powerful way. I want to start a new project. Ah, my "I" is all too easily distracted!

"You can't be all tangents and no center."

I am not alone in chasing tangents. I'm not the only one who forgets true center. I look around and churches easily become tangent-chasers. We prefer to call them "programs" or more recently "missional commitments," when, in fact, many of them are simply fads that are what other churches are doing. Like me, many I know claim to be a Christian yet find themselves preoccupied with isolated and random tangents while avoiding "a long obedience in the same direction."*2 Rather than drinking deeply from the well of grace, we are like butterflies trying to sample the nectar of a thousand brightly colored moments.

We are not alone in our struggle.

God's people under Moses were commanded to remind themselves of their center all throughout the day as they said the Shema:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Joshua, after Moses, led God's people to many victories. As his time to leave this earth drew near, he tried to re-center these people with his famous statement:

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15).

All throughout the Scriptures we find different kinds of re-centering statements. Why? Because...

"You can't be all tangents and no center."

David had to remind himself that the LORD was his shepherd and all life that matters was centered on this Shepherd's care, love, provision, protection, and deliverance (Psalm 23:1-6).

Amos challenged God's people to quit chasing religion and their lavish lifestyles, but to hear the voice of the LORD say: "Seek me and live" (Amos 5:4).

Peter at Pentecost stood before God's people and told them that Jesus whom they crucified should be their center:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. ... Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:32-36).

The Holy Spirit in the book of Hebrews reminds us to "fix our eyes on Jesus":

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith... (Hebrews 12:1-2).

"You can't be all tangents and no center."

So it's time for us to ask ourselves, "What is my center? What is the hub around which my life turns? What is at the center that makes the tangents worth chasing and can still bring me back to a place where my life is in focus, has a purpose, and impacts others for good?

How will I make Jesus my center?
What is my center?"

If I claim to be Christian, then I am saying Christ is center. Either I am in completely and Jesus is invited to be at the center of everything or I am playing religious games and fooling myself.

But is Jesus my center? What evidence can people find in my life that demonstrates this to be true? How much time do I spend tending to my center? How well do I know Jesus' words? How worn is my Bible in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that tell the story of Jesus? How well does my auto-complete on my phone know to open my digital Bible to Jesus stuff? How powerfully has Jesus' example colored my choices, my values, my goals, my language, my treatment of others, and my hope for the future?

Bottom line, I need to ask myself, "How will I make Jesus my center?"

We can't be all tangents and no center.

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*1 I believe I read this in a book by John Killinger, but cannot chase the quote back to a book or author. I only know this short statement has both haunted me and hunted me and healed me as it reminded me that I must make Christ my center.[Return to Article]

*2 This comes from the title of a book well worth our time, Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society."[Return to Article]