Interrupted, fragmented, and multitasking, we’re developing a sort of “spiritual ADD." What practical steps can we take to ditch a distracted mindset?
My eyes are straining, and my mind fights the urge to glaze over the words. I’m on my knees, leaning directly over my Bible study, hoping that maybe this drastic posture will physically force me to be engrossed in the words I’m reading. The text on the page isn’t scrollable. I can’t like it or retweet it, though I can’t seem to stop my mind from curating an imaginary list of tweetable verses and quotes. I’m frustrated with this third-person, social media lens through which I see Scripture—because it’s not what time spent with my Savior should be like. But I’ve been trained to be distractible, and I’m realizing my attention span has, over time, morphed into that of a Twitter feed.
Chalk some of it up to my job. I’m a social media writer and manager, so I have a particular eye for the social media world. But chalk the rest of it up to the technology-infatuated world I’m living in, my dependence on my iPhone, and my heart that longs for the newest information and entertainment.
So my struggle to focus, to find quiet stillness, to pray, and to truly study the Word of God isn’t occasional; it’s a daily battle that jeopardizes my walk with Christ.
And I know I’m not alone.
So what’s causing our minds and hearts so much distraction? And why are the stakes so high?
(Don’t) Pardon the Interruption
Tony Reinke, an author and staff writer for Desiring God, has interviewed experts and written many articles on this topic of technology and the effect it’s having on our souls.
In his article “Get Alone Undistracted,” Reinke points out the effect of constant pings, or notifications. A ping here, a ping there, and our minds have completely strayed from our original task and onto the latest news or our email or text messages.
Are we missing the God of the universe because we’ve lost the ability to focus?
Reinke interviews author David Wells, who says our reliance on technology is driving us to become more and more addicted to visual stimulation. That makes us ultra distractible. “The average person shifts tasks every three minutes,” Wells says. “Half the time we interrupt ourselves!”
Task shifters. We might think we’re multitasking, but don’t some tasks require or deserve our full attention? Reinke certainly thinks so.
It’s quite possible that we’re losing our capacity for attention, our ability to stay focused on one thing for an extended amount of time. That’s why the stakes are so high. If we’re habitually distractible, answering every ping and chasing down every red notification bubble, we are starving our capacity to think deeply. What does that mean for our walk with God?
Diagnosing “Spiritual ADD”
Interrupted, fragmented, and multitasking, we’re developing a sort of “spiritual ADD” that, I think, results in misguided or shallow approaches to God’s Word.
The Bible? It’s not always an easy read. So with a lack of focus, we may just avoid the Word altogether because we don’t have the patience to sit and wrestle through the difficult stuff.
- Reliance on an interpreter
We may find ourselves trying to multitask so often that skimming and relying on someone else’s words about the Word of God seems good enough. And while that post or devotional you’re reading may be wise and doctrinally sound, if you’re not in the Word yourself, you’re missing the real thing.
- Tweetable devotions
I fear quite a few of us fall into this camp. We’re so fragmented in our thoughts, thinking in 140-character blips, that retweeting a verse graphic on Twitter fulfills our Scripture quota for the day. While a tool that can be used for kingdom purposes, Twitter will never replace your Bible. Don’t allow favoriting and retweeting to be your daily bread.
Do any of those approaches hit home? It’s not too late to make some changes. First, you’ll need to ask yourself, What am I beholding?
Be Still and Behold
“What we love to behold is what we worship,” Reinke says. “What we spend our time beholding shapes our hearts and molds us into the people we are.”
Simply put, you worship what you behold. You become what you behold.
And here’s the kicker: “What happens to our soul when we spend so much time beholding the glowing screens of our phones?”
Know that beholding God in His Word requires intentionality and effort and grace, and it’s all worth it.
Are we beholding our phones so much that we don’t know how to behold God in His Word—or worse yet, we can’t behold God in His Word—because our minds and our souls are so trained to be distracted? Can we truly soak in the Word when we tend to jump ship every three minutes? Are we missing the God of the universe because we’ve lost the ability to focus?
Psalm 46:10 gives a simple, yet powerful command: “Be still, and know that I am God.”Be still. Behold Him.
“For the health of our soul, we must learn to get alone undistracted,” Reinke says. And oh, how I agree.
Taking Steps to Disconnect
What practical steps can we take to ditch a distracted mindset?
Recognize your soul’s need to meet with God—without technology. Turn off your phone, or leave it in the other room.
Pray that God would calm your soul. You don’t need to know the most recent updates. You may even feel sweet release from the constant need to know the latest information.
Take your Bible, a pen, and a notebook. And be content with just those tools. They’re what you really need.
And know that beholding God in His Word requires intentionality and effort and grace, and it’s all worth it. And doing it without distraction will make your heart and mind most available for God to work.
I’ll be right there with you, fighting distraction, making time to get alone—no pings, no email, no tweets. Because the God of the universe deserves so much more than a few seconds of our focus and a verse tweet. He deserves our undivided attention and our humble willingness to behold Him for who He is.
Written by: Samantha Nieves