Driven to Distraction
Increased connectivity combined with increased networking has lead our society to increased productivity . . . or so the claim goes. As technology has advanced it creates more opportunities to learn, to work, and to join together with others in ways that were never possible for previous generations. In many ways we can, and should, be thankful for the abilities that technology has given us. Although, the use of technology has steadily increased, while the failure to understand its impact on our concentration, thinking, and learning has left a deficit in our ability to rightly use our technological resources.
Technology is a gift from God. As a gift from God though, it requires proper stewardship, not merely for proper functioning, but for the revelation of His glory. With that notion in mind, we must discern between the times technology is profitable and when it is an obstruction.
In his book Lit! (a wonderful book about reading books that I would highly recommend) author Tony Reinke briefly addresses the impact technology has had in ‘reprogramming’ our brains. Quoting from articles by David Ulin and Nicholas Carr, he lays out how e-reading has forced a deterioration in concentration and retention. No longer able to handle information in larger portions, readers find themselves unable to endure more than two or three pages of reading at a time.
If technology can have such a negative impact on casual reading, how much greater is that impact on the reading of Scripture? The Word of God is living and active in a believer’s life, with the ability to pierce more than flesh, but into the soul (Hebrews 4:12). It requires more than a glance, but a deep look into the text that is highlighted by meditation, reflection, and deliberation (Psalm 1:1-3). It is read not merely to gain intellectual knowledge, but with the expectation of application so that it becomes wisdom that sanctifies (cf. Ezra 7:10; John 17:17).
The solemnity of Scripture necessitates a solemnity in the reading of it as well. This in combination with the increasing use of technology, provides compelling rationale to put hedges of protection in place that guard against any obscure source that seeks to take away meaning from our time in the Word.
Driven Beyond Distraction
If conformity to Christ is to be instituted into our lives, it must begin with conformity to His habits of communion with the Father. Christ offers up various lessons throughout His life of the magnitude and manner of time with the Father. Perhaps one of my favorites in this regard is Luke 5:16 which reads: “Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed” (Holman Christian Standard Version) (see also Matthew 14:23 & Mark 1:35). I find this verse particularly influential because it captures two important aspects of Christ’s relationship with the Father: regularity and intentionality.
The word ‘withdraw’ is a present active participle in the imperfect tense. The active voice indicates an action that was Christ’s alone. He took it upon Himself to find time with the Father knowing the importance of that time. The imperfect tense indicates a repeated or habitual action over Christ’s life. Not merely a one-time occurrence, Christ made it part of His routine to find time with the Father.
Even more, Christ sought out places where He could be alone. In the midst of the large crowds, there was a great recognition for aloneness with God. While groups can sometimes foster relationships, it is in those times of aloneness, or one-on-one, when an intimate acquaintance can best be made.
Some will say, but the examples we have are of the Lord praying not of Him reading (reciting) Scripture. We must remember though, that Jesus Christ is both the Word (Revelation 19:13) and God (John 1:1). As such, He did not have the same need for the written word that we have today. We communicate to God the Father through prayer and He communicates to us through His Word. The two disciplines are not mutually exclusive of one another, but fully integrated together into the Christ life.
Like Christ we are to become; like Christ we are to exemplify. Therefore, like Him, we should force ourselves to go beyond the distractions of this worldly realm so that we may be consumed by the heavenly realm. While not an exhaustive list, I would suggest to you a minimum of five basic characteristics that should take place within our Bible reading time:
- Be Surrendered: Our time of prayer and reading require us to be surrendered to Him in all humility. Without humility we lack teachability and thus will lack conformity to His Son.
- Be Secluded: Like Christ, find places of solitude so that all attention may be focused on Him and His Word.
- Be Regular: There are two aspects to being regular. The first is to simply be consistent in the time you spend with Him. The second is to be regular about when you do it. I would never say your regular time of prayer and reading must be done at a specific time or the same time every day. However, there is value in recognizing that we are creatures of habit, and if we coordinate a time that is routinely scheduled at the same time, we will be more consistent in how often we follow through on the commitment.
- Be Reflective: The Psalmist urges readers to meditate upon the Word of the Lord. It is important that we not read for the sake of reading, but for the sake of learning and growing. It requires time of deep reflection upon what is being read.
- Be Real: Use a ‘real’ Bible rather than an e-book or something similar. Temporarily lay aside your e-reader and pick up a genuine Bible. Electronic devices accentuate distraction often drawing us into other tasks or other reading and away from reading Scripture.
The richness of God’s Word should be taken in with full attention. These five points (2 S’s and 3 R’s) are meant to simply guide us away from the distractions of the world so that we may be attracted more to the Word.
Driven Away from Distraction
In no way am I decrying the use of technology. Those types of resources are beneficial when used rightly. Were they not available, you and I would be hindered from encouraging and edifying one another as we are doing now. Neither am I decrying the use of electronic books. As a missionary overseas, I have come to rely heavily on them for the sheer practicality of them (even though I prefer to look upon a finely printed page and feel the distinction of materials between my fingers while I interact with the precise words that make a book unique to the life of an individual). What I am decrying is the distraction that those types of resources can bring into our lives when we do not rightly compensate for them.
The reading of God’s Word brings life to our lives. It draws us deeper into God’s presence as it reveals who God is. It aids us in our ability to be crucified with Christ so that we may have life with Christ. It is used by the Holy Spirit to transform us every day. So, our desire should be to minimize the distractions around us to allow our full attention on the Word in order that we may be directed towards God.