As I’ve spent time over the last few weeks praying and looking forward, I noticed a theme with most of my goals. Many of them had to do with recovering attention and the ability to be present.
Like many, I’ve noticed myself being caught in the onslought of attention deficit. All of my disposable attention was being held captive by the news cycle and a wide swath of social media connectivity. I realized A.D.D. isn’t just a condition for a few, but cultural epidemic that plagues many.
Even the over-consumption of good, helpful, insightful articles and posts from trusted spiritual leaders led me to feeling overwhelmed. I noticed an increase of anxiety, fear of missing out (F.O.M.O), and the disappearance of the space needed to listen, pray, and create.
In order to recover the abililty to listen, be attentive to the people who matter most, and order my days with creative intentionality, I’ve known this has needed to change. I’ve needed to identify the “bad news” I’ve believed (ie. to be “out of the loop” is to be less valauble). Also, I’ve needed the right combination of adjustments that wouldn’t just be a pendulum swing reaction, but a intentional harnessing of the culture I live in.
This is not a new message, but it is still a relevant one.
What if we were able to move from an attention deficit to an attention surplus?
Here’s what I’m going to try this year…
Practice a Full Sabbath Day
Honoring the Sabbath is a commandment by God to seize from work, and enjoy creation. This is to remind us that our value does not come from our productivity. It’s God’s gift to us as a reminder that the universe doesn’t actually revolve around us. This is a day for rest, restorative activities , and spending time family.
My difficulty in the past has been taking an entire Saturday and disengaging from work. My best attempt so far has been a half Sabbath, or a day fragmented by some phone calls or meetings. This year, I plan on practicing Sabbath from dinner on Friday night to dinner on Saturday night, leaving space on late Saturday evening for any last work that needs to get done before Sunday morning.
Be Immersed in Scripture
I like reading – books, blogs, magazines, you name it. But there is still no subsititution for the Bible. Scripture is the narrative of God creating and rescuing His world. It’s about the Godhead inviting us into His family for all of time. This is a message I need every day. Also, this helps me be attentive to God’s story and not just my own.
One of the best new tools I’ve found is an app called “Read Scripture“. The guys behind this project not only have a created a beautifully designed interface, but focus on helping the reader understand the narrative of Scripture rather than seeing the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales. Also, their illustration videos are stunning. I typically read my physical Bible, and use the app to track what I’m reading.
No Social Media or News on Phone
I don’t plan to totally disengage from social media. I’m not there yet. But I’d like to recover lost moments of time where I would pick up my phone to see if anything new happened in the last 2 minutes. Some of this was inspired by Simon Sinek’s critique on millenials, and is fueled by a desire to be present in mundane moments – when I’m standing with my son at the bus stop or waiting in line for coffee.
I’ve removed social media (with the exception of Instagram) and news apps from my phone. I plan on scheduling a set time of day to check in and read anything I missed.
Turn Off Notifications on Devices
Along with the previous change, I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone except for phone calls and text messages. I can’t stand buzzes, and chirps, and banner messages that pop up throughout the day. Turning these off helps minimize distractions from things and people I care about.
The best part of being human is the God-given ability to choose who we are becoming. We can’t always pick our circumstances but we are powerful enough to cultivate a strong inner life, set new habits, and order our lives around what matters most to us. Not changing is the same as choosing passivity. And passivity is choosing to be less than human.
Ultimately, the change we really want is not always something we can manufacture with our own strength. To seize life in the kingdom of God, requires more than our best efforts. We need the gift of grace extended to us in the person of Jesus. His “divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness”(2 Pet.1:3). That’s something I need.
What about you? What are you adjusting in your life this year?