Before Christmas, we received a note from Jadon’s teacher regarding his “lack of focus” in the classroom. The teacher is well-informed regarding Jadon’s ADHD diagnosis (attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder) and his trend toward straying thoughts, but she felt that, perhaps, something extra was being added to the mix of his confusion.
Accordingly, she pulled Jadon aside and inquired of him as to the reason behind his straying during her lecture time. He assured her that nothing was wrong… that he simply had lost focus. Not quite satisfied with his answer, she wrote me a kind note, letting me know of the situation, and asking me if their might be something further “going on at home” that might be contributing to my son’s distraction.
Immediately my thoughts turned toward my cancer, quickly followed by thoughts of the upcoming Christmas celebration. Rather than linger in my suspicions, I talked with Jadon regarding his straying in the classroom. In serious tone and with little hesitation came his reply:
“Mom, it’s like this. When I’m listening to the teacher at school, it’s like I’m on my horse, traveling on a path through the woods when all of the sudden I see a fire off in the distance. I turn my horse in that direction, and I begin to chase after that fire. Before long, I don’t see the teacher anymore. Only the fire in front of me.”
My concerns abated, I smiled. I looked at my son and simply said:
“Tomorrow, son, no chasing fires. Stay on the path with your teacher, and all will be well. If a fire happens while on the path, you’ll just have to step around it, hop over it, or walk right through it. But son, stay on the path with your teacher.”
He chuckled; we hugged, and he left the house for the great outdoors… I suppose for an afternoon filled with chasing fires of all manners. And I couldn’t help but wonder about Jadon’s diagnosis and if ever there has ever been a more apt description for the problem of ADHD, the problem of straying thoughts. I bet the experts would like to get a hold of this one, maybe even use it as a way of describing to the world what it is like to live inside the skin of a person who struggles with this label. A person who is easily distracted and would rather chase fires through the tangled forest than to stay on the path already blazed within.
Chasing fires. When was the last time you stepped off the marked path with the Teacher in order to entertain the flames of a fire not meant for your daily deliberations? I imagine we all could recall occasions when we’ve been guilty of foraging for foreign flames rather than sticking to the sacred steps already blazed on our behalf. Times when the warmth and burnt orange of a distant flickering rerouted our thoughts and redirected our horses into dangerous territory—territory meant only for distraction and destruction, not for personal discovery.
Like my son, I’ve chased a few foreign fires over the course of my earthly tenure. It’s not served me very well. I’ve got a few burn scars to prove it. Even when the path before me has been an obvious leading from the Teacher, there have been those “out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye” occasions when the flames of another fire have captured my attention, and my learning disability kicks in. It’s called temptation. And whenever temptation is entertained, a straying is soon to follow. And whenever straying in the woods is chosen over staying on the path, the chasm between the two becomes a cluttered gap of trees and brambles and miscellaneous steps not easily retraced once the fire has diminished and lost its heat.
Fires like that… ones that burn to ashes… are never intended for our good. Instead, they temporarily flame for our distraction. For our straying. For our missing out on some steps with the Teacher—steps that can never be replaced, but steps that will have to be retraced in order for learning to occur. That being said, not all fire chasing is bad. Some fires are meant for our approach, our attention, and our purification. But those fires aren’t usually found off the beaten path. Instead, they usually present themselves along the way and as we go… in plain view and requiring our stepping around them, hopping over them, or walking right through them. On those occasions, we clearly see the Teacher through the flames, knowing that his holy veil has passed through them first, allowing us safe passage as well.
Oh for feet that are firmly entrenched upon the soil of our up head rather than our side to side. For eyes to clearly see the path, for wisdom to choose the path, and for a heart full of courage to stay on the path with the Teacher despite the fires burning all around us. It’s not easy to continue on course, friends. Not easy to stay fixed on our learning when multiple distractions line our daily lives with their interrupting flames. But stay we must if we want to pass the test and travel forward to the next assignment that our Teacher has for us—a task that will further our maturity and move us past our infancy.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste time in the woods with fires that are going to stunt my growth. Instead, I want to keep in step with my Teacher, believing that where he’s headed is where I need to be. He’s leading me on an odyssey of faith that will eventually land me safely home; I’d rather get there with fewer burns because of fewer fieldtrips to the forest. Thus, I say to myself this day the words I now speak to my son each morning before he leaves for school…
“Child, no chasing fires today. Stay on the path with your teacher, and all will be well. If a fire happens while on the path, you’ll just have to step around it, hop over it, or walk right through it. But child, stay on the path with your teacher.”
Perhaps, my friends, you need the reminder as well. Keep to the path of our Jesus; he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life… the only fire worthy of our chase this day. Keep your eyes fixed forward. As always…
Peace for the journey,