Prioritizing Reflection in an Age of Distraction

“Men talk to me about their mental and emotional exhaustion, and all through the conversations, their phones are lighting up with a distracting blizzard of sounds and images. And they wonder why their brains feel fried! They’re giving themselves continual mental whiplash as they pour stimuli and data into their brains from every direction.” David Murray, Reset

We are busy. Our schedules fill up with many things—often good things—leaving us little down time. Many view margin as either an act of unfaithfulness and waste or proof of a less than fulfilling life.

Busyness leads to a hurried, rushed, and frantic lifestyle. We rush from place to place, event to event, and rarely enjoy what we’re doing because we’re thinking about where we came from and where we’re headed. What feels urgent and pressing leaves us stressed, but also guilty because of how many other balls in our life get dropped.

But we’re not only busy, we’re distracted. While many are aware of their busyness, fewer people realize (or admit) how distracted we’ve become. Distractions make us feel even busier than we are, and rob us of little moments to exhale throughout the day. Think of how quickly you turn to your phone, social media, a tablet, or surfing the internet. We do this in short bursts (check-out lines, traffic lights, waiting rooms, meals) and for longer periods of times than we’d like to admit.

Jon Bloom writes, “Since the fall of man, people have had trouble staying focused, but we live today in an age of unprecedented distraction. Since you’re already reading this on some electronic device, I don’t need to elaborate.”[1]

For the courageous, check your phone’s Screen Report to see your average daily and weekly times on your phone. The average American spent two hours and fifty-five minutes per day on their smartphone. If we’re not glued to our phones we’re staring into another screen: the TV. Most Americans spend the majority of their time in the evenings watching television. We turn to Netflix or put on a movie to relax, and a couple hours later we realize we’ve vegged out but don’t feel any more rested. Busyness feasts on our day, and then distraction scurries in to scavenge any leftover moments.

Because our eyes are fixed on screens, and our minds are preoccupied with what needs done, we sacrifice the ability to look and recognize gifts around us or reflect on the deeper, more significant things of life. Our brains are on overload. Everything seems important but nothing seems very significant. Life seems like it lost its color and luster, maybe even meaning and purpose. These are all symptoms of a busy, distracted life.

Saying “Yes” to Reflection and “No” to Distraction

Among the many negative effects on us, one is we’ve pushed out space for reflection. Thoughtfulness and reflection—both on what we’re personally experiencing and on ideas presented to us or events going on around us—are at an all-time low (despite strong opinions remaining high).

The loss of reflection eats away at our spiritual lives. Without it, how will we know what God is teaching us, doing in our life, convicting us of, leading us toward, or wanting to do through us? How will we take time to consider the underlying thoughts, desires, and emotions guiding so much of our life? How will we fight back the anxieties of our to-do lists and fears with rest in God’ promises and presence? We won’t. All these things are loss in some degree as we exchange margin for rest and reflection with busyness and distraction.

One small, simple way I’m hoping to fight back (and this is warfare, because it’s not always easy or convenient) in 2020 is by prioritizing 15 minutes a day for reflection. To provide a handrail to walk me along in this practice, my plan is to start journaling my thoughts on a few reflective questions.[2] I might not answer all of these each day, but here are some prompts for reflection and meditation.

Questions for Daily Reflection

  1. How was God at work today (or yesterday)?
  2. What can I thank God for?
  3. What burdens did I carry today? (Take a minute to cast them on God in prayer.)
  4. Where did I fall short, struggle, or sin? What do I need to confess and repent of?
  5. What do I need most from God for the past day or the upcoming day?
  6. What did I learn about God through His Word or through living in His world today?
  7. Are there any strains in my closest relationships that I can address or work on?

 

I’d love to hear ways you’ve prioritized and practiced meaningful reflection.

 

Footnotes

[1] Jon Bloom, “Lord, Deliver Me from Distraction,” https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lord-deliver-me-from-distraction

[2] John Piper often talks about how important writing things down is in his life. See his interview “Why Do You Journal?” https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/why-do-you-journal

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indycrowe

You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @IndyCrowe for the short & sweet stuff.

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