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.
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.