The other night my husband and I were talking just before crawling into bed, and he shared something interesting with me that put into words some things I had been sort of convicted about.
- By Thomas Hawk on Flickr
My husband heard some guy on the radio talk about multitasking online and the tendency to get distracted on the Internet. You know, you open 3 or 4 tabs (I have 5 open at this moment), start something in one, then go to do something in another one, switching back and forth. Or you get online to check your email (maybe you are expecting an important message or have to write one), and then you decide while you’re at it to tell Facebook what you’re up to; then you see an interesting link your friend posted, so you follow that, and before you know it, you’ve wasted half an hour and done nothing productive! Sound familiar? It does to me.
The sad thing is, many of the things we do online are an absolute waste of time. My site stats, for instance. Checking them once a day at most would be much more productive than checking them every hour. They will not get any better for all that I check them. It takes a minute or two to get to them, and all those minutes add up pretty fast. Of course, by the time this publishes, I won’t have Internet at home so I’ll be checking them only once a week. But that has been a problem for me this past month.
It also seems that this multitasking actually wastes time, instead of saving it. Sure, listening to a sermon while I iron is better than ironing in silence and then sitting down to listen to a sermon. But I have found that I really can’t talk on the phone while ironing. I work twice as slow–or stop altogether. It is better to focus on one task at a time. In fact, studies show that working on 3 tasks sequentially will result in less overall time and a better quality of work, as opposed to working on all 3 simultaneously. (See Wikipedia on Human Mulitasking.) This especially applies to the Internet.
My husband has realized that this is true in his own life. He said that he would be working on documentation, and then he would get the urge to check his email (granted, work email, but still…). That would take 2 or 3 minutes, then he was back to the documentation. But then he’d check something else, and was just being distracted all day long. He said he’s renouncing the Internet. I don’t blame him!
But here’s the interesting thing. All this multitasking actually reroutes the neurons in our brains, creating new paths that hinder deep thinking. Having so much information on hand–an overwhelming amount of information–makes it hard for us to focus on any one thing. We tend to scan. That might be fine if you’re trying to find the best sale, but it’s not good when you pick up your Bible.
I will admit that I have been affected in this way. I sit down to read my Bible or a devotional book, and I get distracted very easily. Trying to do my devotions on a computer with Internet usually ends in disaster. My last attempt was successful (you can read about it here), but I rarely even attempt it–because most of the time I succumb to the temptation to check my email or my blog stats or something else–or all of the above.
Is it any wonder that I have been struggling lately in my spiritual life? If I can’t focus on the deep thinking required to digest God’s Word, how can I grow spiritually? How can I focus on prayer, on “being still” before God, when my mind is used to changing topics every 30 seconds?
So I am glad that soon I won’t have Internet (I’m writing this the day before our big move, so this is probably the last day I’ll have it!). Since I no longer have a car (did you read about that?), I’m probably going to only have access to the Internet once a week (unless I walk to the library–not sure if I want to walk with two kids on that narrow, country road). This means I’m going to have to make a list of things that need to be done online and stick to it so that I don’t get distracted. This blog is going to probably be 90% of what I do online, and that’s fine. Facebook has its advantages, but mostly it’s a waste of time. Email has advantages too, but it should not consume my life!
As I was contemplating all this, something struck me. Remember Enoch? “And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him.” Genesis 5:24. The Bible doesn’t have much to say about Enoch, but one of my favorite writers has expanded on those words, giving them depth and meaning [Emphasis mine throughout].
Enoch’s walk with God was not in a trance or vision, but in all the duties of his daily life. He did not become a hermit, shutting himself entirely from the world; for he had a work to do for God in the world. In the family and in his intercourse with men, as a husband and father, a friend, a citizen, he was the steadfast, unwavering servant of the Lord.
His heart was in harmony with God’s will; for “can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. And this holy walk was continued for three hundred years. . . .
Distressed by the increasing wickedness of the ungodly, and fearing that their infidelity might lessen his reverence for God, Enoch avoided constant association with them, and spent much time in solitude, giving himself to meditation and prayer. Thus he waited before the Lord, seeking a clearer knowledge of His will, that he might perform it. To him prayer was as the breath of the soul; he lived in the very atmosphere of heaven.
Patriarchs and Prophets, 85
Isn’t that beautiful? When I read those words, I have a desire to have such an experience. But notice it meant separation from the world. Earlier in the chapter, speaking of the decendents of Seth and of Cain, the author states,
For some time the two classes remained separate. The race of Cain, spreading from the place of their first settlement, dispersed over the plains and valleys where the children of Seth had dwelt; and the latter, in order to escape from their contaminating influence, withdrew to the mountains, and there made their home. So long as this separation continued, they maintained the worship of God in its purity. But in the lapse of time they ventured, little by little, to mingle with the inhabitants of the valleys. This association was productive of the worst results. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair.” The children of Seth, attracted by the beauty of the daughters of Cain’s descendants, displeased the Lord by intermarrying with them. Many of the worshipers of God were beguiled into sin by the allurements that were now constantly before them, and they lost their peculiar, holy character. Mingling with the depraved, they became like them in spirit and in deeds; the restrictions of the seventh commandment were disregarded, “and they took them wives of all which they chose.” The children of Seth went “in the way of Cain” (Jude 11); they fixed their minds upon worldly prosperity and enjoyment and neglected the commandments of the Lord. Men “did not like to retain God in their knowledge;” they “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21. Therefore “God gave them over to a mind void of judgment.” Verse 28, margin. Sin spread abroad in the earth like a deadly leprosy.
So one of the ways Enoch maintained his walk with God was to avoid association with the wicked as much as possible. However, he was a prophet, as Jude points out (see Jude 14-15). And prophets don’t just keep revelations of God to themselves.
Enoch became a preacher of righteousness, making known to the people what God had revealed to him. Those who feared the Lord sought out this holy man, to share his instruction and his prayers. He labored publicly also, bearing God’s messages to all who would hear the words of warning. His labors were not restricted to the Sethites. In the land where Cain had sought to flee from the divine Presence, the prophet of God made known the wonderful scenes that had passed before his vision.
But he didn’t stay there, with those for whom he was working. He didn’t stay in the cities of the Cainites.
In the midst of a life of active labor, Enoch steadfastly maintained his communion with God. The greater and more pressing his labors, the more constant and earnest were his prayers. He continued to exclude himself, at certain periods, from all society. After remaining for a time among the people, laboring to benefit them by instruction and example, he would withdraw, to spend a season in solitude, hungering and thirsting for that divine knowledge which God alone can impart.
So he worked in the cities, then went for refuge to the country. He never stayed in the cities any longer than he had to. He found refuge in the country, in peace and solitude with God, away from the corrupting influence of the wicked.
Get Out of the Cities
Many people recognize that living in the country is better overall. It’s safer, for one. Have you ever watched The City Movie? You should. It is a documentary about many of the dangers in the cities. But forgetting the dangers from terrorism or natural disasters, think what influences are there. Billboards vie for your attention. Music blares from the car next to you. A gay couple walks hand in hand down the street, right before your children’s innocent gaze. The incessant noise attacks your subconscious mind. It’s all unavoidable. And it’s all designed to draw your attention away from God.
The same author states in other books,
To parents He sends the warning cry, Gather your children into your own houses; gather them away from those who are disregarding the commandments of God, who are teaching and practicing evil. Get out of the large cities as fast as possible. Establish church schools. Give your children the Word of God as the foundation of all their education.
Child Guidance, 310
As God’s commandment-keeping people, we must leave the cities. As did Enoch, we must work in the cities but not dwell in them.
Country Living, 30
So the goal would be to be like Enoch: Go where those who need Jesus are, reach out to them, then go back to the more wholesome influence of the country.
So I was thinking about all this, and something struck me. The Internet is kind of like the cities. In this day of Facebook and eBay, email and Google, it is almost impossible to “renounce the Internet,” as my husband says he is going to do. I mean, sure, I could get by without it, but I just started this blog and really want to keep it going. But there are real dangers out there, and I need to keep this in mind.
I know of a family whose thirteen-year-old daughter has never used the Internet alone. She might have helped her mom pick out clothes to buy online or something like that, but she doesn’t even have her own email address (much less Facebook or Myspace). She homeschools, but not online. And she’s very happy. She trusts that her parents know what is best and is thankful to be protected from all the dangers out there.
When I first heard that story, I thought they were a little extreme. I mean, they were talking about how they were thinking that in a couple of years they would teach her how to use Microsoft Word, as an introduction to using the computer, before they even let her go online! But as I thought about it, I realized that she was getting more of the childhood I had, without Internet, and she wouldn’t miss it, really. The world is a very different place than it was 15 years ago!
But to apply this, I kind of see the Internet as a parallel to the city. It has become somewhat of a necessity to have access to it, but it doesn’t have to be daily access. Staying away from it is probably a very good idea. It can be a great outreach tool, but that doesn’t mean we should spend every waking hour on it.
So in a way, I too am renouncing the Internet. I will write my posts offline. I will edit my tutorials offline. I will make everything as ready as I can, and then upload and schedule the posts whenever I do get online. I will stay focused on my goals as well, making lists of things I need to research online during the week, and praying that when the time comes I won’t become distracted. And if I do become distracted, maybe I’ll have to stop researching online. I may not get on Facebook much if at all. Later when we get a laptop that I can take to the library, I can install software on it to limit my time on certain sites (like Facebook). That is my resolution. May God help me to keep it!
Has God been speaking to you while you read this article? If so, please post a comment and share. I would love to hear your reactions.