In my constant quest to simplify and strip away all which is not Christ in my life, I have been thinking recently about living linearly. It seems more than ever these days, we tend to live our lives in parallel. We never do one thing at once. We read or watch television while we eat. We do daily chores with our attention divided between the squawk of the television or the words and beats flowing through our headphones.
To increasing peril, we use our phones while we drive. Even in conversation, we spend much of it thinking of what we want to say next rather than focused on what is being said to us. Instead of focusing on one thing at a time and living linearly, we are distracted by many things and constantly processing our life in parallel.
Despite the scientific impossibility of multi-tasking (what we do is more accurately defined as “switch-tasking”, as our brain rapidly switches from one thing to another. It cannot focus on two things at the same time), we seem obsessed with proving we are the exception. Look at almost any job description and you will find the requirement of being “effective at multi-tasking”, despite the fact no one can be effective in this way. The multitasking myth continues to grow and be sought because our world is moving faster and faster causing us to try and find ways to keep up.
It’s no wonder we feel anxious and stressed. We are living our lives in an unsustainable manner. The cure, I believe, is not only to slow down but to practice living linearly. To put it another way, we should live in a sequential manner, focusing on one thing at a time before giving our attention to something else. I know this goes against all modern wisdom and thinking, but I see Biblical precedence which should always override the wisdom of man. Not once do I see where Jesus was distracted or hurried because of all He had on His plate. Look at everything He needed to accomplish in His three or four years of ministry. Who could have blamed Him for setting up schools or programs in each area He visited so He could multiply the spreading of His message? It seems Jesus wouldn’t fare well in our modern Church era of launching multiple satellite locations.
No, Jesus was focused on communicating one on one. He always finished His work in one town before moving on to another. He seemed to never watch the clock, taking all the time needed to teach or simply talk to someone. When Jesus began doing anything, you could rest assured it had His full attention and He wouldn’t move on until it was complete. He processed His life one task at a time. He was never rushed. He never gave in to the pressure to “multi-task”.
As I have (to horrible degrees of success) begun attempting to live my life sequentially, I have found an amazing side-benefit: peace. When we let go of thinking about twenty things at once, the stress and anxiety of daily living melts away. I’m more present in the moment. I’m calmer, more patient, and more confident in my actions. I think this is because it is how we were created to live. I think Jesus is pleased when we slow down and stay focused on Him and the work He has given us to do. Busyness is a tool of Satan, one He uses to distract and overwhelm us. Living linearly allows us to keep our eyes on Jesus and not be distracted by whatever else is going on around us.
Try it for an hour. Try focusing on only the task at hand until you complete it. My guess is you’ll be amazed at the peace and clarity you find. Those traits sound a lot like Jesus, don’t they? And after all, shouldn’t we all be trying to live our lives just as He did (I John 2:6)? Give living linearly a try. I think you’ll like the effects it has on your psyche and the way it enables you to live like Christ.