“Be still, and know that I am God.”
“The world is too much with us”, lamented William Wordsworth two centuries ago. What might the poet think of how the world is crowding in on us today! Researchers say that Americans spend 11 hours a day with digital media, including television, radio, smartphone, Internet, social media and video games. Even if digital media were morally neutral, one can only imagine the impact of those hours spent!
Often I catch myself going online to check my email, only to emerge an hour later having forgotten why I went online in the first place! I’m feeling more and more my need to take a frequent break from digital media, unplug, and pull off the information highway. I need time just to know what I’m thinking, to feel, to be in wonder, and just be.
For the past three weeks I have written about why I fast, and what I am learning as a beginner about fasting. I have taken up a “Normal Fast” of abstaining from all food, solid and liquid, but not water, once a week from sunrise to sunset. “The central idea in fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline)
While Scripture has much to say about our need for fasting and praying, I also feel the need to apply the principle of fasting to other aspects of my life: i.e. abstaining from “an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” Specifically, I feel the need to fast in regard to my consumption of digital media:
- Set aside one day a week to be as digitally free as possible (i.e. unplugging from TV, internet browsing, social media, emailing, text messaging, etc.)
- Create a physical space where you put aside digital devices as a way of saying to family and friends: “I am present to you.” For example, you might have a tray into which you place your smart phone, computer, and other digital devices when you walk into your house at the end of the day. Those digital devices remain there for the night unless you have “good reason” for accessing them.
- Rather than listening to news or talk radio as I drive, take that time to pray, mediate, or review Scripture memorization.
- First thing in the morning, resist checking my email and text messages, turning on the TV or radio, and listen for God’s voice instead.
I think of Jesus’ example of getting away from otherwise normal activity for the purpose of time with the Father:
“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’” Mark 1:35-36
The thought of everyone “searching for you” is daunting, but we all need time alone with the Father. Wordsworth was right! “The world is too much with us.”
Grace and peace,