Have you ever been to a pool, let’s say at a hotel, and you thought maybe you’d like to get a few laps in, or at least take a little relaxing dip? So you ease your way into the water, but as soon as you do, this busload of kids jumps in out of nowhere and suddenly the pool is teeming with all sorts of sea creatures great and small. And your nice quiet swim just got drenched.
I don’t know about you, but that’s how it feels for me about every time I get ready to settle in and do some serious brain activity. It seems like my ability to concentrate on a task that involves focused thinking has been steadily declining. Like watching Albert Pujols’ career ever since he left the Cardinals.
I want to deliberate, contemplate, and meditate more deeply, but I’m so distracted by all the noise and commotion going on in the shallow end that I quickly lose focus. It’s nobody’s fault but mine, but I wonder what’s happened?
Is it an age thing? I may be getting older, but I don’t think I’m old yet. Isn’t “old” at least 10-15 years away, at whatever age you are?
Is it a cultural thing? Have we simply been conditioned to pay attention to stuff for like 10 seconds max, then we’re forced to move on to something else? Everything’s fast. I had to wait in the drive-through at a local fast food establishment last week for about 10 minutes, as four cars were in line ahead of me, and I was ready to go somewhere else because I was getting impatient.
Here’s my theory: I think it’s a distraction thing. I don’t really want this to sound like an old man rant, but it’s probably too late. I believe my attention span has deteriorated by the sound bite blitz, by scanning too many headlines and not reading past the first paragraph, by scrolling through Facebook feeds and feeling like three seconds is too long to read a post, and by my phone constantly buzzing with notifications that alert me to a new text message, a new e-mail, a new notification, a new story Google thinks I might be interested in, an update on a sports score to game I don’t care about; not to mention that even when I don’t hear it buzz I frequently feel the need to check it anyway.
It’s hard to swim laps when you’re stuck in the shallow end and there’s a busload of kids in the pool. I want to get back to the deep end. Not that I don’t enjoy the sound of 100 pre-pubescent shrilling and piercing voices bouncing off the water and echoing endlessly across the reverberating walls, but if I’m going to get in the training workout I really need for my health and fitness, or just a quiet relaxing float, then I’d better figure out a way to keep myself from being so easily distracted.
Do you know that even Jesus sometimes needed to get away from the crowds to spend time alone in prayer with His Father? He understood the value of physical and spiritual rest, and knew that in order to keep serving others like He did He also needed some quiet retreat time. And I don’t think He took His iPhone with Him.
May the Lord help us learn to sit in stillness sometimes, to meditate often upon His Word, to think long and deep and seriously about important issues, and to be able to hear His still small voice above the noise and distractions of the world.