August 24, 2015

Finding the Still, Small Moments

I’ve always enjoyed flying. Not the security lines or those times when I’ve been squished into a small seat in an overbooked plane, but the moment when you’re seated and you’ve just taken off. You can’t use your laptop or your phone and you’ve got a book to read or maybe you’re just sitting with your thoughts.

I’ve just returned from vacation abroad and I had many moments like that. I didn’t have cellular service so I didn’t walk around with my phone in my pocket as usual and only checked email every now and then. I found that it was a bit of a relief to leave my device in my room and pick up a book or write without distraction.

I, like many of us, am somewhat addicted to my phone. I know people often say that technology is simply a tool, like pen and paper, but there is evidence that it can mess with our brain, each notification or new status update giving us a little high. It’s ultimately about how we choose to use it, but you could say the same thing about sugar. Some of us just need to keep the Oreos out of eyesight so we don’t eat them all in one sitting.

So my vacation was a reminder that being connected all the time is not necessarily good for me.

Part of being a healthy adult is deciding not to do certain things. Deciding not to respond to an email or check what’s next on my to-do list, but rather to focus on what I am doing at this specific moment. Saying no to all those pings, both internal and external—those little alarms and tweets—that demand immediate attention.

This isn’t really about technology, but about giving myself time to focus on long-term projects or reflect on what matters most. I am prone to making to-do lists instead of actually doing things on my lists and coming up with plans and never getting around to putting them into action, often because I allow myself to get so bogged down by the day to day, unable to say no to all the small, immediate things that call my attention. Ultimately, on my vacation I was reminded I need to say no, not so much to email or technology, but to the part of me that wants a quick fix in order to avoid the things that matter.

In late August and September, as many churches are starting new programming, it may be a good time to focus on the bigger picture, to give ourselves time and silence to reflect. This is especially important as our schedules fill up and our to-do lists get longer. Many of us are returning from vacation and feeling like we must rush to catch up. In the midst of that, how can we teach ourselves and each other to say no to demands of modern life from time to time, and find the quiet moments where we make out the still, small voice of God?

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