Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a high school student more than when a teacher begins class by saying, “Put your books away and take out a sheet of paper.” The universally dreaded pop quiz. So unfair! Unannounced and unprepared for. As you follow instructions in the thirty seconds that follow, you are demanding that your brain recall at least some of the salient points from previous classes, and at the same time you are deeply regretting not having read the last two chapters of the text. And prayer drills down to its most fervent, not unlike a soldier in a foxhole. You are now laser focused.

Your first semester at college you discover the varied styles of your professors. Some are easy-going and jovial, setting you at ease. Others are brilliant in their presentations, but somewhat intense in their demeanor. Others are obviously gifted, but their voices are so monotone as to defy wakefulness. Then comes test time. You sense which ones will be demanding. The surprise (well, my surprise), is the laid back prof. What he wants is his exact wording from his notes. Not similar. Not approximate. The exact wording, or else! For the next round of testing, you are focused and word-for-word prepared!

Then, Term Paper Deadlines. Six weeks away. No problem. Three weeks away, I’ll get to it. Three days away – everything coalesces into narrowed focus. What researching is there time to get to (relying on Wikipedia’s brilliance is NOT an option)? What other assignments need to be finished up at the same time? How many total hours are left before D-Day? (how much coffee will I need?). Interesting, how many activities get tossed aside, now replaced by the urgent, nearly impossible task of completing a 3,000-word essay on a topic bearing little interest and even less knowledge, presented in proper, collegiate essay format? The next 72 hours are the very definition of focused!

In each of these challenging situations, I think it would be fascinating to see what areas of brain activity light up, what levels of adrenaline are released, how many anxiety calories are burned. On a positive note, they reveal our ability to get focused, however belatedly. In a matter of just a few seconds, we go from being kicked back, enjoying life, chatting with our neighbor, to all systems lurching to a halt with the Red Alert Siren blaring (profuse sweating may suddenly occur!). 

So, condolences to the weary, devastated, bewildered disciples of Jesus! But no time here for self-pity, for wallowing, for processing. Jesus is alive again! It seems as though the recent, unspeakable tragedy was not a sidetrack, not a loss, not a colossal failure, but was consistent with the Father’s eternal plan, the fulfillment of a multitude of prophecies, what Jesus had always determinedly embraced as his mission. Focus, guys, focus! Why had they not seen this coming? What had they missed? Were they asleep? And when is the deadline? How will the deadline be announced? How do they prepare? We’ll investigate a bit more tomorrow, 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM.  PD

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