Carpe Diem, ADHD, and the Battle of the Moment

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Experiences of mental disorders can reveal how God-given brain functions serve us, and how their absence affects our abilities to function in the world.  Suffering and healing from these conditions reveal how God transforms us, as He redeems us from or despite our illnesses and imperfections.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD), is a mental disorder affecting concentration and attentional functions of the brain, causing difficulties in controlling one’s mental focus.  This condition can lead to problems in everyday living, not only in academic and intellectual pursuits, but also in social interactions, personal relationships, psychological development and spiritual growth.

Without good concentration abilities, people have trouble organizing, planning, dealing with emotions as well as being sensitive to the feelings of others. A person with ADHD has to work harder than normal to focus, as it is abnormally easy to be distracted.  If ADHD is severe, living life in the moment can be a struggle because we need to pay attention in order to live in the present.  For the severely afflicted, inattention can also block our abilities to prepare for the future.

Without ADHD, normal concentration and attention are more automatic. Our abilities to focus, evaluate the present and prepare for the future are taken for granted.  Making plans and organizing projects are not as much of a struggle.  But life is full of unpredictable and unexpected events, and we realize the future is actually out of our control.  That is when we can experience anxiety.

“Carpe Diem,” or “seize the day,” is a Latin saying, from the Roman poet Horace, encouraging us to live in the moment.  This saying was meant to draw people back to the present, to appreciate and experience life fully and attend less to an uncertain future.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to live in the present, and not to worry about the future:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?…
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Matthew 6:31,34 (KJV)

Jesus ministers to believers’ fears and anxieties brought on by trying to control our lives. He encourages us to let go of anxiety and give up trying to control the future.  He embodied a life of surrender to God, depending on Him not only to care for “clothing, food and drink,” but also direction, strength and rest.  Choosing communion with God allows us to focus on the present to battle “the evil thereof.” As we abide in Him, we have assurance that our future is secure in His care.

The spiritual battle takes place at the moment between self and surrender.  We choose either self-reliance or communion with God, surrendered to His sovereignty.  The outcome of this battle determines our spiritual growth.

With ADHD, paying attention to the present or planning for the future is not an automatic ability. Those affected often work harder to focus on the moment.  Fighting the spiritual battle for God’s communion, affected by ADHD, is like going to war without a strategic weapon.

Those without ADHD have the same battle, the struggle to balance responsibility for the future while abiding in God in the present.  Unlike those with ADHD, the balance is not complicated by the struggle for mental and emotional focus required to make well-considered spiritual choices.

“Carpe diem,” as Christ provides opportunities each moment for redemption in our brokenness and fallen nature, for a deeper communion with Him.

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