In an age where everything moves so fast, it is becoming increasingly difficult to slow down and find time to sit, reflect, and be still with God. I, myself, find the need to constantly check my email, facebook, my blog stats, and so many other online stats that even when I am in the position of prayer and study, I am thinking about all the things that I need to ‘check’ when I get done.
In his blog, Are Books a Thing of the Past? author Jim Rice echoes the words of David Ulin, author of The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. For both Rice and Ulin, what I am struggling with is “is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there’s something out there that merits my attention.” Rice confesses that this ‘buzz’ might be the spiritual problem of our age and I would have to agree. Anytime I give anything more attention, or more prominence in my life than I give to God, there is a spiritual problem.
For a long time, I have given prominent attention to television. I can spend hours and hours watching television, shows that I probably should not watch, and leave only a few minutes at the end of the day when I am nearly asleep to spend with God. This I am working on, and I have to say, I have made progress, first by cutting out some things that I should not watch that not only consumed my time but my thoughts, but also by shutting off the television at a certain hour so that I am not watching it late into the night.
But I find that when television is absent, it is easy to fill the time that I spent doing that with something else, like social media and the internet. So is this ‘buzz’ really the problem or is it, along with other things that grasps for our attention, a symptom of a much bigger problem: idolatry.
As I drive into work most mornings, I am able to listen to Chip Ingram’s radio-broadcast “Living on the Edge.” Lately he has been preaching a series on the Ten Commandments and looking at them through the perspective of boundaries. Quoting directly from Ingram “when boundaries are broken, relationships falter.” God has given us the boundary to have no other God besides him, and this just does not mean the gods of different religions or worldviews, but the gods we bow to and pay homage to everyday at the expense of our relationship with God.
I think that what we worship can change and evolve over time. As I mentioned, television has been a struggle for me, but it has not always been television. At one time, it was music, at another time it was dating, at another, money, at another material possessions, and now sometimes this social media thing, appearing to satisfy my need to be and remain connected to everyone and everything. As you can see, the problem is not any one particular thing because in and of themselves, many of these things are good. The problem is that I have looked for other things to distract me, other things to fulfill my thoughts and my time so that I do not have to be filled by God.
I have to be honest, sometimes I do not want to be filled by God. Sometimes I do not want to slow down to hear his Word, hear his voice, sit in his presence. Sometimes I am afraid of what he might say, what he might ask me to do and so like the Israelites in Exodus 20 at the reading of the Ten Commandments, I stand afar off and do not come near. And like the Israelites, I fashion an idol, something that can take the place of God that is not too threatening to my comfort, to my ideals, so that I do not have to change, so that nothing will be required of me.
I am so glad that even when I am like this, God still draws near to me. I am so glad that he does not wait for me to pursue him and get my act together, but passionately comes after me and compels me to sit with him. And when I do, its never scary, its never frightening, its never what I have built our meeting up to be. God just wants me, and he wants me to be still in him, to throw of the pretense, to get rid of the charades and rest. What was I so afraid of?