Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard once said, “A saint is someone who can will the one thing.” To “will the one thing” means to focus your entire being in one direction. It’s an endless obsession over a single goal or object.
When I was young, I thought being a good Christian meant adding lots of Christian attitudes and actions to my personal list. I needed to read my Bible more, pray more, listen to more Christian music, go to church more, share Jesus more, and the list never seemed to end. I find what Kierkegaard said interesting because it is not about adding more, it’s about narrowing down the list to the bare essentials, knowing that, as long as you are focused on the right thing, all the other essentials tend to fall into place.
We always admire people who have this very specific kind of focus. Olympic athletes don’t get to where they are without having their entire hearts and minds set on their sport. They let so many other things in life fall to the side, and I believe it is getting harder and harder to have that kind of focus.
We can’t even focus on simple tasks anymore like driving without being preoccupied with our phone. Every day on my way to work I see people with one hand on the wheel and one hand on their phone. Besides being illegal and dangerous, texting and driving is a sign that we have become so preoccupied with the little things that we rarely focus on the important things, like not crashing our car.
As I have been trying to study the story of the birth of Christ, it is hard to get past the familiarity of the story and let it humble me way it truly should. This is where the story of the Magi is helpful. We know very little about them. We don’t know if there was three or more, we don’t know exactly where they came from, and we don’t even know their names. But what we do know is they had a single focus.
They followed the star they saw in the sky for days. The star was in the sky for everyone to see, but only those who were paying attention knew of its meaning. Herod showed fake interest in the birth of Jesus, but he couldn’t be bothered enough to make the short journey to Bethlehem while the Magi were willing to travel great distances to welcome the King.
I want that kind of focus. Scripture tells us that the path is narrow and in order to stay on the narrow path we have to have a narrow focus. My prayer for us all is that we desire to “will the one thing” and that Jesus is always the object of our desires.