I have been doing radio interviews for The Wired Soul these past couple of weeks and have to say I’ve grown pretty adept at explaining the things the internet is doing to our brains and how it affects our souls. But every time I rattle off the list, one thing in particular troubles me most, which is that digital life is robbing us of the capacity to think deeply—not just about God, but about anything.
I thought about this when I read an article in the NY Times by Teddy Wayne called “The End of Reflection.” He begins by talking about how there was a time when life offered random moments to pause and reflect—whether waiting in lines, lying in bed or riding the subway. But now, like most of us, he automatically picks up his phone and engages in some activity so that about the only place he is alone with his thoughts anymore is the shower.
Last night I began my seminary class with a short, profound reading by Augustine of Hippo, and then gave my students two minutes of silence to ponder it and prepare their hearts for class. Later, a 23-year-old student shared that he couldn’t even remember a time when he had been silent, alone with his thoughts for two minutes. As incredible as that sounds, it is more than likely descriptive of an entire generation of digital natives and a good percentage of digital immigrants as well.
I am by nature, an optimist, but I have to say that this loss of our reflective capacities as we trade mindful moments for digital diving fills me with dread for our collective future. Just this week I sat at my grandson’s soccer game where a 2-year-old nearby played on his father’s phone for the entire hour plus. The brain of this child and millions like him are in the developmental stages and we are only beginning to understand the far-reaching impact this stunting of the mind will have for our culture and indeed the world at large. If you think I am the least bit alarmist here, check out these videos and then pass them on to every parent you know:
HOW TECHNOLOGY MAY AFFECT CHILDREN (DR. OZ) (click here)
But here’s the thing: We will never have the wisdom or wherewithal to help our children and grandchildren deal with digiphrenia until we determine to deal with it first ourselves. We are as addicted to our devices as anyone else, and getting serious about finding balance must begin with us.
Nowhere is this more critical than in our journey with Jesus, in which our entire lives are to be shaped as the Spirit of Christ gently teaches, trains and guides our steps. Indeed, this is the only way we can begin to comprehend deep truths about God and his love. Paul explains:
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. …“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:9-14, selected, ESV)
These addictions that draw us continually to our devices are surely stealing some of life’s most precious experiences, and none more important than the serendipitous seconds when God chooses to show up—in gentle whispers and quiet nudges, in moments of mystery and glimpses of glory, in clarity of thought and depth of perception-all those things that no eye has seen or ear heard or heart imagined, but God ever waits to pour out on us in love. How many of these might you have missed today?
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Tricia McCary Rhodes
Author of 7 books and a professor for Fuller Theological Seminary, Tricia specializes in helping others experience God’s presence through practicing soul-care.