“Where you’re looking, you’ll end up,” he said.
I wasn’t sitting in church or listening to a podcast or attending a seminar on personal growth; I was standing on a paddle board for the first time in my life, off the shore of Coronado Island in California.
“Don’t look down, you’ll fall over,” my instructor continued. “Don’t look to the side, you’ll fall over. Don’t turn around, you’ll fall over. Look straight ahead. Where you’re looking, you’ll end up.”
I originally ignored his words, as I clearly assumed I knew better than he did. I’m going to stare at my feet, thank you very much, to make sure they’re evenly spaced on this massive board I’m trying to keep from sinking. I’m going to look around, to make sure I’m not running into people. I’m going to look at my hands, to make sure they’re positioned correctly on this paddle.
I’m going to look wherever I want to.
His words slowly sank in, though, as I started staring straight ahead—not at my wobbly feet, not at my shaky hands—and I found myself gliding forward. It still took effort to keep moving, but suddenly, it all felt a lot easier. Suddenly, it all didn’t seem so difficult. Suddenly, I was going where I wanted.
Where you’re looking, you’ll end up.
His words soon took on new meaning. As I stopped focusing on my feet, my cramped legs, my center of balance, I started to enjoy the beauty around me. I started stressing a little less. I started reflecting on the gravity of what he was saying. Where you’re looking, you’ll end up.
Stroke by stroke, I realized how true it is of life.
Stroke by stroke, I thought back to times it was true of my life.
When my sole focus in life was my accomplishments, I ended up highly competitive, overly stressed, obsessed with comparison.
When I was constantly looking back on all the places I’ve failed—all the places I’ve fallen short—I found myself defeated, not good enough, self-loathing.
When I was looking to gain attention from unaware, self-centered boys, and ended up in immature, unhealthy relationships.
When I only saw my problems and my needs and my desires, I found myself scarily alone. When I focused on community, I found myself in the middle of life-giving, life-changing relationships.
When I started focusing on growth, I ended up finding freedom.
We all drift toward whatever it is we’re focusing on. It’s natural to follow your line of vision, it’s normal to gravitate toward the thing that’s consuming your attention. Where you’re looking, you’ll end up.
And then I couldn’t help but think of our world. When we’re looking toward the divisions in society, when we’re focused on the differences between our ideologies, we’ll find ourselves divided and alienated from one another. When all we’re looking at is what someone else did wrong, where someone else fell short, we’ll end up a helpless “victim.” When we’re solely focused on the evil in the world, we’ll end up seeing enemies everywhere.
What if we started looking for hope? What if we set our sights on our similarities? I’m not saying we should belittle pain or brushing past differences of experiences and the realities of our world, but what if we started walking slowly toward where we agree instead of sprinting toward where we divide? What if we focused on the differences we can make, instead of simply staring at our political leaders to fix everything? What if we looked at Truth, instead of being fixated on a certain denomination, church, pastor?
Where would we end up if we altered where we’re looking?
Lately, I’ve been making it a priority to look toward health. Healing. Redemption. Rest. Boundaries. Grace. And although I haven’t quite arrived (do we ever?) I’ve found myself one step closer. I’ve found myself slowing down, smiling more, breathing easier. I’ve found anxiety a little less common, self-doubt a little further away.
I’ve been looking toward Jesus, and my hope is to end up at His feet.