Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cast Your Distractions on Him

Climbing the large dune at Warren Dunes State Park


That, according to Richard Foster, is the primary spiritual problem in our day. "The Internet culture is only a surface issue. Our problem is something far more fundamental. This deeper, more basic issue can be summed up in one word: distraction."[1]

The inability to focus. 

Difficulty in attending to just one thing. 

The tweeting soul. The linking brain.

It’s nothing new.[2] This has always been with us. "People were distracted long before it [the Internet] came along. Blaise Pascal observed, "The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room."”[3]

Minds are prone to wander. Today they seem to divert more than ever because we live our culture sells mental and spiritual rabbit trails. Ours is an atmosphere of distraction, a world economy sustained by distractedness. To un-attend is the norm. 

This is changing the nature of interpersonal relationships, in some ways for the worse. It affects the God-relationship, and if and how people pray. Single-mindedness, the ability to attend to one thing over a sustained period of time, is needed to succeed at anything, including praying. If someone wanted to overcome this, how could it be done? Foster writes: "The first counsel I would give regarding a wandering mind is for us to be easy on ourselves. We did not develop a noisy heart overnight, and it will take time and patience for us to learn a single-hearted concentration."[4] 

Don’t be impatient with yourself here. That is precisely the problem: impatience.

Learn about your inner chaos. Identify it. When your mind wanders, note where it wanders to. It always wanders to something like a burden. Identify the burden and give it over to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast your burdens on him, for he cares for you."

Discern if a particular distraction is from God. "If one particular matter seems to be repeatedly intruding into our meditation, we may want to ask of the Lord if the intrusion has something to teach us. That is, we befriend the intruder by making it the object of our meditation."[5] 

Find ways "to crucify the spirit of distraction."[6] Fast for periods of time from electronic media (how badly do you want this?). Choose to turn off the cell phone and see if you can survive without it (A new kind of reality survival show?).

Remember that people don't need you as much as you think they do. Constant contextedness with people increases inner chaos. Foster writes: "I would suggest a fast from all our Internet gadgetry for one hour a day, one day a week, one week a year. See if that helps to calm the internal distraction."[7] 

Find a place to meet with God. Post a sign saying, “Distraction-Free Zone.” In that quiet place, pray. Dialogue with God. Listen, and speak. Learn the Relationship. Get away from the to-do list and be with God. Live life with your doing flowing from your being with God. 

Ahhh... to calm the inner distraction...  To learn simply being with Almighty God...  To receive and respond to God's earth-shattering presence...  To be in love with your Maker...  

…that I might come to the place where other voices are silenced and my own voice is muted and I hear his voice and nothing else.

[1] Foster, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer, Kindle Locations 709-710.
[2] See, e.g., Maggie Jackson and Bill McKibben, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. New York: Prometheus, 2008.
[3] Foster, op. cit., Kindle Locations 710-711
[4] Ib., Kindle Locations 716-717
[5] Ib., Kindle Locations 725-726
[6] Ib., Kindle Location 727
[7] Ib., Kindle Locations 728-729