Our church recently took part in a collective “media fast” to kick off the New Year. The challenge for the week was to give up various forms of digital and/or social media that tend to take up significant chunks of our time. “Media” could include television, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, iPhone game apps, etc. The goal was to replace digital media with more meaningful time spent with God and with our friends and family.
I confess I did cheat once to catch up on the season premiere of Season 4 of Downton Abbey on the first day of the fast (I’m only human!); otherwise, I really did give up all forms of digital/social media for the week. I didn’t log into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Amazon, blog feeds, etc. Here are some truths that I’ve realized about myself over the past week through the media fast:
I am incredibly susceptible to idleness. I love scanning Twitter and Instagram feeds, reading interesting articles, funny blogs and learning about what’s going on in the world. I love mental challenges with fun games on my iPhone. But what usually starts out as interest, intrigue and novelty online can quickly become idleness and self-absorption. Ecclesiastes 10:18 says “Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.” It’s incredibly easy to drift into idleness, and when we individually drift, the whole house of God can be affected. There’s nothing wrong with rest and enjoyment; indeed those are gifts that must be pursued and cherished. But when enjoyment creates chronic idleness in our lives, we can quickly become disconnected from God and others.
Decluttering is important. The media fast helped declutter my heart and mind. Not checking my Facebook or Instagram or QuizUp! results every 2 minutes really freed up my time and attention to truly seek God wholeheartedly and enjoy relationships. On a recent podcast, I heard speaker/preacher Christine Caine teach on the importance of decluttering. She and her family had recently participated in a reverse tithe, in which they gave away 90% of their household stuff and kept only 10%. She also spoke about the importance of decluttering our spiritual lives, in which we need to let go of old things in order to lay hold of new things. If we want to grow and move forward in our possessions, personal relationships and spiritual life, we need to make room for the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. At the start of this New Year, I really believe God has been wanting to breathe new life, vision and purpose into my life but in order to lay hold of that I needed to let go of some old things first.
My ability to focus and reflect increased. I freely admit that constantly being wired in, scanning Twitter feeds, checking Instagram likes and responding to Facebook comments has lead to a sort of fragmentation in my mind. My capacity for long, sustained periods of reflection has seems to have miserably dwindled especially over the last year. Even taking a few days off of social media helped me to stay focused on what was in front of me, rather than thinking about a dozen other things and being present in the moment. I was actually able to read the Bible for sustained periods of time on my phone instead of thinking I needed to suddenly update, check on or Google something really quickly (however worthwhile it might be…).
As a source, God is inexhaustible. Sometimes as believers—especially for Christians in full-time ministry—it’s tempting to go on auto-pilot. The minute we phone it in or go on auto-pilot we are unknowingly robbing ourselves of freshness, joy and strength in the Lord. Working for a church, there is constant pressure to lead others and be a source of encouragement and inspiration. If I run on my own steam, I will sooner or later bottom out. But if God is truly inexhaustible as a source, there is always new encouragement, revelation and energy to be found if I’m choosing to trust Him and turn to Him every day. In order to be filled with God as a source, I have to learn to regularly empty myself of constant distractions.
I posted this on my Facebook a couple of weeks ago, but I thought this video beautifully sums up what we can miss out on if we are constantly staring at a screen.