Friday, July 27, 2018

Cast Your Distractions on Him

My back yard


That, according to Richard Foster, is the primary spiritual problem of 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." (Foster, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer, Kindle Locations 709-710)

The inability to focus. 

Difficulty in attending to just one thing. 

The tweeting soul. 

This has always been with us. Foster writes: "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." (Ib., 710-711)

People's minds have always wandered. Arguably, today they wander more than ever. We live in a culture of distraction, a world whose economy is sustained by distractedness. To un-attend is the norm. (See, e.g., Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.)

This is changing the nature of interpersonal relationships for the worse. And, it affects the God-relationship. Single-mindedness, the ability to attend to one thing over a sustained period of time, is needed to succeed at anything (except multi-tasking). If one 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." (Kindle Locations 716-717) He quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"The first thing to remember is not to get impatient with yourself. Do not cramp yourself in despair at the wandering of your thoughts. Just sit down each day and wait patiently. If your thoughts keep running away, do not attempt to restrict them. It is no bother to let them run on to their destination; then, however, take up the place or the person to whom they have strayed into your prayers. In this way you will find yourself back at the text, and the minutes of such digressions will not be wasted and will not trouble you." (In Ib., Kindle Locations 717-721)

Learn about your own inner chaos. Identify it. My suggestion is: when your mind wanders, note where it wanders to. I have found that the mind always wanders to something like a burden. When you identify the burden, 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. Foster writes: "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." (Kindle Locations 725-726)

Find ways "to crucify the spirit of distraction." (Kindle Location 727) Try fasting for periods of time from electronic media. Turn off your cell phone and survive without it. How badly do you want single-mindedness?

Remember that people don't need you as much as you think they do. Constant connectedness with many 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." (Kindle Locations 728-729)

Find a place free from distractions, and 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...  

Francois Fenelon wrote, "God does not cease speaking, but the noise of the creatures without, and of our passion within, deafens us, and stops our hearing. We must silence every creature, we must silence ourselves, to hear in the deep hush of the whole soul, the ineffable voice of the spouse. We must bend the ear, because it is a gentle and delicate voice, only heard by those who no longer hear anything else." Oh, may you, may I, hear nothing else." (In Ib., Kindle Locations 765-767)