“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” Matthew 6:22
When I was young, my older sister and I would arrive home from school to an empty house. Both parents working necessitated this. This arrangement worked out fine until the day we came home and noticed the television gone, the back door kicked in, my parents’ bedroom ransacked, and the harmless (and apparently useless) dog locked up in my room. (I guess he was underfoot for the bandits.)
It was an odd feeling. It bothered me that someone mean and unkind, dare I say ruthless, who cared nothing for my family had been roaming about the house touching things that belonged not to him.
Another time, when I was a bit older, a friend and I decided to take a day-trip up to New York City. Strolling along towards the end of our day we happened upon a group of people playing a game; a shell game. Those playing were actually winning! The man behind the rickety cardboard boxes working the shells had a stack of money in his hand. My friend and I thought it would be easy to find that little ball under the shells because I had guessed correctly almost each time a round was played, so I plopped down my $20.00. Poof! No ball, no win, only sirens racing by behind us. As we turned round to see the source of the noise, everybody, now behind us, vanished. We turned back and no one was there. Unnerved and quite irritated that I had just been weaseled out of $20.00 we headed to the nearby police station in Times Square to file at least a complaint, but truly hoping someone would give me my $20.00 back. (Ha! The naïve notion that I could actually get back that which was stolen!) While explaining my plight with true country-girl shock at the unmitigated gall of these city-dwelling thieves an oriental man came rushing in with blood streaming down his shoulder and back crying out, “I been robbed! Dey took my camera! Dey stabbed me!” My friend and I looked at him, looked at each other, gathered our things and headed out. We figured $20.00 lost verses a stab wound wasn’t so bad. Lesson learned; and rather inexpensively at that.
Two robberies; one for which I did not ask, one for which I volunteered. John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” There is one bent on robbing you, one who relentlessly seeks to steal whatever he may from you; whatever he may: time, peace, contentment, ability to think… whatever. Sometimes, as in Job’s life, God makes allowance for things to be removed from our possession. Other times, it is we ourselves who have laid our money down at the shell game table hoping for a greater return. These days it seems the bandit of technology is doing much of satan’s dirty work. I read a quote recently, “I had a life once…now I have a computer.” I ask you to take a moment to assess precisely what technology has stolen from you. I hope to open your eyes up to something very interesting.
My concern as of late has been that of the great volume of distractions we face daily that are literally robbing us of some of our most precious treasures. These treasures being our limited resource of time, our ability to sit and be still before our God, and our ability to think deeply on subjects. A Frenchman from centuries ago, Blaise Pascal, said, “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” The ability to tune in to one thought and to stay focused on a task is not so common a trait anymore. I suggest we are allowing ourselves to be robbed of this ability in the little choices we make throughout our day. Little choices, seeming nothings, such as, do we reach for our iPhone or our Bible first thing in the morning? In 1747, Lord Chesterfield wrote in a letter to his son, “This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.” I ask you, how capable are you these days to focus on one thing at a time for an extended period of time? Has this ability markedly declined in relation to the time you sacrifice before the god of technology?
The theory that we do well when we multitask has been blown out of the water by researchers. Our brains were designed for one thought at a time, one task at a time; one. When I began to meditate on this, examples from Scripture leaped off the pages and I saw that this singleness of thought and singleness of purpose in life is a part of the teaching of Jesus. Beginning with, “I am the LORD thy God…thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Also, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Fast forward to the Psalms, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.” And Jesus’ own words, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Also, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Surely you’ve already thought of other verses.
Our brain is not a computer, it is a living, vibrant thing connected to the eternal part of our being. We are building new connections as we learn and we are actually losing connections as we neglect areas of our learning and growing. From the book, Digital Invasion, “Researchers are warning that the ability to ‘contemplate’ or ‘meditate’ declines in those who over engage in the digital world.” Andrew Newberg, in his book, How God Changes Your Brain, as quoted in Digital Invasion, says that “today’s digital invasion targets mainly the frontal part of the brain, not only overusing it, but also depleting it of simple energy. This impairs our ability to think deeply, and consequently, communicate with God in a meaningful way.”
We connect with our God through our thoughts. We learn of Him with our brain. Shallow thinking leads to shallow living. As Christians we are meant to think higher, nobler thoughts. We are commanded to study (brain effort) and to spend time meditating, in quiet and solitude, on what God has shown us. “Be still and know that I am God.” “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with you own heart upon your bed, and be still.”
I have found that as I become more connected to my digital world and less connected to the reality of my Christ-centered world I feel that “life seems nothing more than a quick succession of empty nothings.” Can you relate? Have you lost the wonder of it all; the simply wonder of a quiet morning soaking in the truths of God’s Word knowing that the God of All is reading along with you seeking to impress upon your heart the very truths you need for that specific day? Have you forgotten the truth that this very day is a gift, a magnificent gift from God? How things might change if we were to respond as if this is the first day of our life and our last. Our level of gratitude would soar for such things as the eyes we have been given and the wondrous kaleidoscope of nature before us. Our attitudes towards those around us would be so altered in the knowledge that we have only today to leave that lasting impression and to use our influence to touch others.
From Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students, “Time spent in quiet prostration of soul before the Lord is most invigorating. David “sat before the Lord”; it is a great thing to hold these sacred sittings; the mind being receptive, like an open flower drinking in the sunbeams, or the sensitive photographic plate accepting the image before it. Quietude, which some men cannot abide, because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty deigns to walk.”
The solution for us? Repent and unplug. Take a holiday (holy day) away from technology. Confiscate the fragments of time throughout your day to revive your relationship with God. Get ready to really see the wonderful world around you again. Prepare to hear your children’s hearts again as you sit and listen to them undistracted. Get set to drink in the pleasure of communing with God with a quiet heart again. Being “connected” isn’t all the world would have you to believe it is. The only vital connection we must maintain is that to our heavenly father.