A few Sundays ago, I was sitting in church with my family when my 8-month-old son started crying inconsolably. He was hungry and needed a diaper change, so I took him back to the mother’s room, changed his diaper, and settled in to nurse him. Once we were both settled into the rocking chair, I glanced at his sweet baby face staring back at mine for a few seconds. He smiled at me. Then his eyelids shut slightly as he drifted into a happy milk coma. With the baby no longer interacting with me, I glanced around the room instead. Nothing much to see. For a brief moment, I was bored.
My response to this slight boredom was automatic. I reached a hand into my diaper bag, pulled out my phone, and seconds later found myself surfing Facebook.
Only after I had replied to a few emails and checked up on my blog reader did I remember: I’m at church right now! In fact, my Pastor is giving a sermon! I can hear this sermon over the speakers! What in the world am I doing on my phone!?
Media in its various forms has become such an automatic distraction in my life, I hardly register it as a distraction. Instead, I view it as a good thing: my life line. My phone and my computer keep me in touch with the outside world on the days when I am otherwise stuck at home with my three small children. My television allows me to entertain the children during that half hour before dinner when I just need them to sit still and be quiet so I can get things done. The internet is a never-ending source of inspiration for projects, and recipes. It allows me to get any needed shopping done at a discount without ever leaving my house.
So what’s the problem here?
The problem is that media is such an easy source of fun, entertainment, inspiration, and human interaction, that I often find myself automatically and unwittingly allowing it to fill time that should be better spent. Maybe I should have a really good conversation with my husband, but it’s way easier for us to spend the evening staring at our separate glowing rectangles. Maybe I should fold this laundry, but look! A new blog post is up on my favorite blog! Maybe I should spend this relatively unexciting downtime thinking, dreaming, and brainstorming, but an instagram feed full of pretty pictures is right at my fingertips. The more I am in the habit of filling every single still moment with media, the more automatic this behavior becomes. The next thing I know, I’m checking my phone during the sermon at church without even realizing I’m doing so.
The Bible talks a lot about being “still” and “calm” before God, practicing patience and quiet as we seek to know Him.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5)
But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:2)
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.(1 Peter 3:4)
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26)
Having grown accustomed to instant gratification entertainment, I find it difficult to practice stillness and quiet as i go about my days. Those moments I could spend in quiet communion with God are far too easy to fill with readymade distractions like my computer or television.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
Do you struggle with managing the time you spend on media?
This week’s challenge: Replace a time you would normally surf the internet or watch a movie with silent thought and prayer.