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Distracted

By June 4, 2017 10 Comments
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by Michael Bos

As I write this, I’m mindful of research about online reading habits. I know that for every additional one hundred words I write, the average reader will only read 18% of it—and that’s an optimistic estimate. Perhaps that’s because we’re inundated with information. The former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, revealed a startling statistic. He said, “between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days.”

It’s not just that this information exists and is growing exponentially; we’re bombarded by it every minute of every day. We receive emails, tweets, snaps, posts, pokes, voicemails, links, tags, blogs, vlogs, pop ups, banners, ringtones, vibrations… all telling us that more information awaits us. It’s never ending and ubiquitous. It seems there is no place we can go to escape the onslaught of someone wanting to inform us of something.

Amidst this growing din of information, we have become a distracted people. Our work and our relationships are filled with interruptions that constantly redirect our focus. As crazy and chaotic as this can be, when it comes to our faith, we take comfort that we trust in Jesus, who is called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). So no matter how distracted we become, we know that somehow, someway, God is with us. While this is true, the question for a distracted people is this: “Are we with God?”

Terry Hershey tells the story of a rabbi’s son, who upon coming home from school, put his backpack on the table and headed into the woods for half an hour. The rabbi thought nothing of it at first, but this continued for days and then weeks. The rabbi became concerned, wondering if there may be a problem that is prompting his son to disappear daily. And so he inquired of his son about his ritual of wandering into the woods. The son told his dad, “Don’t worry, dad. I go into the woods to pray. It’s where I can talk to God.” The rabbi was relieved to learn this, and then said to him, “Being the son of a rabbi, you know that God is the same everywhere.” His son replied, “I know, dad. God is the same everywhere. But I am not.”

We are not the same everywhere, and while God is with us wherever we are, we may be too distracted to be with God. Today may be the day we need to begin finding the spaces and places where we can be different, less distracted, so that we can be with God.

I’m not sure which 18% of this you will read, but I hope it will include this short poem by Mary Oliver.

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Michael Bos is a pastor, author and interfaith proponent. He is senior minister of West End Collegiate Church and president of The Collegiate Churches of New York. He and his coauthor, Dr. William Sachs, have recently published A Church Beyond Belief: The Search for Belonging and the Religious Future, and Fragmented Lives: Finding Faith in an Age of Uncertainty.

10 Comments

  • James Schaap says:

    Thanks for these words this early Sunday morning. Just for the record, I read all of them.

  • Rob Williams says:

    One of my favorite poems by my favorite poet/theologian!

  • Daniel James Meeter says:

    Nice, Michael, and thanks.

  • Thomas Boogaart says:

    Thanks Michael. What happens when the soul is so deeply distracted that there is no escape, no other place to go? I always hope that worship will be such a place, but how often is that really the case.

  • asipoblog says:

    Thanks, Michael — your post makes me ponder the rise of information and the rise of ADD. Is it any accident that they coincide? I read a great quote today from a book by Andy Crouch, the senior communication strategist for the John Templeton Foundation in Philadelphia: “Many of us are not as captive to round-the-clock, never-ending demands as we believe we are. Instead, we are our own jailers….The door to a better life is only locked from the inside.” May we unlock it, and find freedom to be with God.

    • Michael Bos says:

      That is a great quote from Crouch. Something to ponder as we consider how to live from the inside out.

    • Michael Bos says:

      Tom, that’s an interesting question. There is another story that ends with the tag line, “They’re waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.” I wonder if we have eliminated the empty space in our lives when our souls can catch up with us. Sometimes worship can be so busy and full of words that it lacks this space, but like you, I hold the hope that worship is one of the primary places this happens.

  • Marilyn Paarlberg says:

    Instead of replying to my “100% X 2 readings” thank you, please use the time to breathe and be, as your words have helped me to do.

  • Thank you for this. ‘God is the same everywhere. But I am not,” gave me comfort, hope, and reason to pull away.

  • John and Merlene DeVries says:

    Hi Mike. First I’ve heard from you in a while and glad to report that, contrary to the Google findings, it was read and appreciated 100%! Trust that all is well with you and family. Our souls are finally catching with our bodies after the transition to FL. Otherwise, all’s well withus too. We send our love and best wishes.

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