Wayne Muller, in his book “Sabbath” talks about the seduction of the modern world, away from the rest that God intends for us. He writes, “Sabbath – Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest” “Much of modern life is specifically designed to seduce our attention . . . When we are in the world with our eyes wide open, the seductions are insatiable. Hundreds of channels of cable and satellite television; phones with multiple lines and call-waiting, begging us to talk to more than one person at a time; mail, e-mail and overnight mail; fax machines; billboards; magazines; newspapers; radio . . . Every responsibility, every stimulus competes for our attention: Buy me. Do me. Watch me. Try me. Drink me. It is as if we have inadvertently stumbled into some horrific wonderland.” Muller wrote all of this before the age of the tablet, mini laptops and smart phones and before social media overtook our lives.
My kids and I were early adapters to email. We had this little Tandy 1000 that my oldest son left behind when he headed back to the Navy. We discovered that when all the stars were aligned just right, we could access a younger son’s college email account hundreds of miles away. It was 1993 and I was just becoming aware of a thing called the “Internet.” Shortly after that, we moved to a community where the city was on the cutting edge of public internet service. What I know to be true is that having that much access to the internet, not just email . . . but the vast knowledge base of the world, radically changed how I used time.
Along the way I discovered that I wasn’t reading as much as I used to. Instead of phone calls to kids it was easier to send a mass email to all seven at one time, than contact each individually. Email replaced voices . . . Internet searches the comfort of a book . . . thoughtful reflection was lost to the noise and intrigue of learning more and more and more about the world.
As much as I love the internet with all the connections and information available there, I began to recognize with the ancient writer of scripture who said in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” – There is even a time for turning off electronic devices. Having that much access to electronic media with its constant contact adds noise to our lives. Our minds get cluttered by the dissonance of competing news streams flooding our brains. Beeps, rings, buzzes and dings distract us with their demand for attention. We let ourselves be pulled away from the important to what appears more urgent.
What I’ve learned in our digital age is that we need space and time to process the massive amount of information we are consuming, with all of its contradictory truths. We need time to compare what we are reading in our social media and news sources with the heart of God, revealed in Jesus. We need to let the words and wisdom of Jesus guide our thoughts, expand our minds and then live those words out in compassionate action in our world. And there are times when we just need to unplug our devises, so we can spend quality time, minus distractions – with the people we love and God who calls to us. In the era of the urgent, we need to cling to the important. In a digital world, we need to lay claim to Sabbath rest.
*First Posted as “In the Era of the Urgent-Clinging to the Important” July 2, 2017