Nicknames have never been something I have wanted or relished having in my life until I was 49 years old. I participated in a weight-loss/fitness program that tapped into my innate desire to push beyond the limit and to accomplish short-term goals. At the end of the program, they bestowed me with the title “Laser Focus.” Even my family realized it was a description that applied to many aspects of my life and the title stuck. No one would argue that determination and tenacity are heralded as essential qualities of excellence for achievers and professionals. But as with most excellent qualities, there is always an Achilles’ heel. In this case, it is the fixation of that Laser Focus. The same ability that can allow you to power through projects, meet unthinkable accomplishments, and handle difficult situations unwaveringly can also make you so fixed on a project, goal, or situation that everything else in life becomes shadows. And unfortunately, if a refocus does not happen, some shadows fade into the distance.
In my personal dissertation journey, my fixation has been being hooded and declared Doctor Worley. Most people would applaud my unwavering vision, but for me, it has clouded my core belief to make Christ the source of my life.
Hebrews 12:1-2 states: “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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We are commanded to have perseverance for the race but also to have the correct vision. The finish line is not becoming Doctor Worley- that is just one aspect of the grand personal course or race to be run. The focus is Jesus who has already finished the race for me. Whenever I have fixed my eyes on the dissertation as my total focus, I have my head down and laser focus on the terrain of the path that is filled with isolation, disappointments, uncontrollable circumstances, fleeting joys, delays, and personal sacrifice. If I do not “lift my eyes to the hills from which comes my help” I succumb to defeat and weariness because the path is all-consuming. By looking to Christ, I put my faith and trust in the One that started the process as the Pioneer, and the one that will perfect every part of the process as the Perfecter.
And as I lift my head, refocus, and broaden my vision, the shadows are transformed into “the great cloud of witnesses” – of real people walking, running, and sometimes carrying me on my journey. God provides the strength and fortitude to travel the rough terrain needed through the ministry of precious people that God has ordained in my life. The path may or may not lead to the completion of the dissertation or the change of my name, but the finish line is secured in the finished work of Christ.