The sixth chapter of The Next Story deals with distraction, which is fantastic because I feel like I'm always distracted! In fact this post was interrupted by Twitter notifications via TweetDeck and I'm not gonna lie, I clicked over a few times before finally exiting the program.
Have you ever noticed how much beeps and notification lights fill our lives? The alarm clock that wakes you up, the dryer going off, the cell phone in your pocket, the list could go on and on. We're called, from the moment we awaken, from one task to another by notifications and beeps. Is it, then, any wonder that we find it so difficult to focus on one thing?
Eventually the problem of distraction becomes more than something that just happens to us; it defines our identity...We become so shaped by our devices that we lose our ability to focus. We are transformed from people who respond to the beep to people of the beep.(pg 116)
Tim argues, and I would tend to agree, that as we have allowed our devices to reshape our lives we "are quickly becoming people of shallow thoughts" because if something cannot be worked through between texts and tweets it's probably too much work. The problem is that when we start thinking shallowly, when we only want to focus on things for brief amounts of time, how can we expect to rightly plumb the depths of Scripture? If we cannot know Scripture, what is the likelihood that it is going to effect our hearts and mold us into mature Christians that can (by the grace of God) withstand difficult trials?
Rather than doing life well, we seek to "do more, accomplish more, be more" (pg 117). This shallow thinking, this shallow living - in some ways it almost seems as though we're blind to it. That because we're so busy trying to do more, we've trained ourselves to think that the busyness is better.
I don't know about you, but I often think I'm being more productive if I'm working on more than one thing at a time. When I first started freelancing I would check my email, check my voice mail, and check my social media accounts all while trying to secure more work via Craigslist postings and working on current client's projects.
Do you know what the result was? Burn out.
Meanwhile, if we surround ourselves by too many stimuli, we force our brains into a state of continuous partial attention...When in this state of continuous partial attention, 'people may place their brains in a heightened state of stress....Once people get used to this state, they tend to thrive on perpetual connectivity.'(pg 125)
Is this not the case? It certainly is for me! But what happens to the Christian when they've gotten used to this heightened state? Do we serve God better? Do we pray more earnestly? Do we love more deeply? I don't know about you, but I don't do any of those things well unless I'm intentional about slowing down and spending some quality time with my Father.
Efficiency is a dangerous mind-set to bring to our faith...there are multitudes of One Minute Bibles and Two Minute Devotionals available for those of us who just can't spare the time, for those who need a spiritual fix for the sake of conscience but aren't willing to sacrifice more time...[God] does not call us to study his Word or to worsship him more efficiently. God calls us to read his Word meditatively(pg 126)
Tim goes on to discuss skimming and how studies have been done to show that the average user scans a website in an F pattern. Starting at the top left they scan the top page, then jump down a couple inches and scans again, only this time they may not scan all the way over before jumping again and finish scanning the rest of the page.
The issue for the Christian is that we have to fight the tendency to transfer this habit to our Bible reading. If God calls us to read his Word meditatively - and He does - then scanning the page is not going to nourish our souls. We are to mimic the Bereans of Acts 17 who "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (vs 11). Can we examine something eagerly while only skimming? We need to focus on this precious gift God has given us. We need to treasure it. And to do that we can't be distracted by the beeps, lights, and buzzes of our lives.
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