by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, May 11, 2014:
First Reading: Acts 2:42-47
Psalm: Psalm 23
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:19-25
Gospel: John 10:1-10
In this week's Gospel, Christ warns of thieves and robbers. Who are modern day thieves and robbers? Who are the ones who would lead us astray?
Well, there are lots of contenders, aren't there? But the ones I'm finding most insidious these days are all the electronic activities which steal so much of our time away from us.
You don’t believe me? Try an Internet fast and see what happens. Could you go for a day without logging on? Could you go for a week? Venture out into the world without your cell phone and see how anxious you feel.
We might tell ourselves that we use our online time to stay connected to family and friends, and I will admit that it’s easier to stay in touch with some people via Facebook than it was with e-mail or old-fashioned paper letters. But most of us don’t post very deep thoughts on our Facebook accounts. A brief status update is better than nothing. But often, I find myself wondering how my friends are REALLY doing.
But do I take the time to write a Facebook message to ask? No. I’m too busy racing off to the next Internet diversion.
You might protest that the Internet has allowed you to meet new people. I’ve been part of poetry communities that wouldn’t have been possible without this easy way to connect. But can those kind of Internet friendships give us what we yearn for?
We might tell ourselves that the Internet allows us to stay current with what’s happening in the world, and in some ways, it’s a wonderful thing. I can read newspapers from all over the world, often for the price of my Internet connection. Not only that, I can read the opinions of others about those articles. In some forums, I can trade ideas with people. But all of that staying current comes with a price: it takes time away from other activities. Some of those displaced activities might be trading ideas with real people at a real supper table.
We often think we don't have time to have a real discussion over a real meal because we're all very busy these days. But what is really sucking away our time? For some of us, it is, indeed, our jobs. For many of us, it’s our Internet lives: we’ve got a lot of stuff to read, videos to watch, plus games to play, and virtual farms to keep up, plus status updates, and all the information we can Google now, and so we do (whereas before, if it required a trip to the library, many of us would have stayed ignorant). And if you’re like me, once you’ve spent so much of your day staring at screens, you may find it hard to reconnect to humans at the end of the day. You may feel your brain gone fuzzy. You may find yourself irritable at these humans who demand that you respond. You may withdraw before you ever have/take/make time to reconnect.
The Internet also takes time away from our relationship with God. I’ve found useful websites that allow me to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but for the most part, I’m not noodling around the Internet looking for ways to enhance my relationship with God—or with anyone else, for that matter. I suspect that if I’m brutally honest, even my relationship with myself suffers when I spend too much time on the Internet.
Now the Internet is not the only tool and resource that allows us to sidestep the hard work of relationship. Some of us narcotize ourselves with television or with spending more hours at work than the work requires or with the relentless pace of the activities that our children do (and need us to drive them to) or any of the other countless activities that humans use in ways that aren’t healthy.
These activities can not only keep us from relationship with humans but can deafen our ears to the voice of that shepherd that goes out looking for us. Our Bible tells us over and over that God yearns to be in relationship with us. But if we’re too busy for our families and friends, we’re likely not making time for God either.
So, try an Internet sabbath, even if it’s just for a few hours a week. Try doing it every week. Invite real people over for dinner or go serve a meal to the less fortunate. Read a book. Play an old-fashioned board game, not the electronic version--and play with people who are in the same room with you.
As you disconnect from your electronics, listen for the voice of God who calls to you across space and time.