In his book The Call, Os Guinness has a chapter titled “A Focused Life”. He recaps the story of Ferdinand Magellan’s epic journey in his attempt to prove the world was round. Leaving Spain in September of 1519 with five ships and a crew of 265, three years later only one ship would return, and only 18 crew. Magellan was not one of them. Acknowledging some character flaws – perhaps more understandable given the age in which he lived, the one thing Guinness lifts up regarding Magellan is the intensity of his focus. “Sail on!” That was the command. When the ships were crumbling and the crew was starving and the sails were rotting, “Sail on” was the order of the day.
Against the intensity of Magellan’s “focused life”, Guinness holds up the blight of the modern world – Pluralism. “Pluralism,” writes Guinness, is defined by “the proliferation of choice and change [which] rapidly multiplies the number of options.” For generations human beings lived on the planet amidst cultural and .”geographic limitations. Diet was comprised of what you could grow or catch. Native Americans were not consuming spices from the Far East. While the endless choices we have today have enriched our lives, they have also affected our capacity to focus. There is always something new to eat, a new book to read, a new fad to try. Our mobility means that we live in more places, work at more jobs, and meet more people than the ancients ever could have imagined. Mobility combined with choice have made us rabid consumers. Whether food, material possessions, or relationships, we have a kind of collective “Attention Deficit Disorder” that has become part of the fabric of our society.
Guinness suggests an antidote to the “proliferation of choice”. “Ultimately,” he writes, “only one thing can conquer choice – being chosen.” Jesus told his disciples: “You did not choose me. I have chosen you.” To be “called” is to discover the focal point of your life. We can lose ourselves when life becomes nothing more than a smorgasbord of seemingly endless options. But the call to follow Jesus is a powerful way to discover what is truly important. Christianity does not present us with yet another “option”; rather, following Jesus sets us on a path that is coherent. Guinness says that Christ enables us to live with continuity in the midst of a fragmented and confusing world.
May you discover some new chapter in your life’s story today. Following Jesus can help us discern which, in the midst of all the options available to us, are the ones worth choosing.