I’m beginning to wonder if I have adult onset of ADD — attention deficit disorder.
My vulnerability to distraction seems to increase substantially. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been working on the laptop and need to find a document or double check an email. In searching for a particular document, I often see something else that begs me to come over and investigate or when I scroll through an email thread, I’m reminded of a task that needs to be cared for now. The consequence of these spur-of-the-moment impulses is that I become distracted from what I needed to take care of in the first place.
Looking around, distractions, disruptions and diversions are not only increasingly voluminous in my life but probably in yours too. (Can I get a witness?) In his book Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age, Alan Noble hoists the norm of our lives with realistic commentary:
“Innumerable gadgets, websites, channels, streaming services, songs, films and biometric wristbands vie for our attention. Without our attention, their existence is unjustified. So, each piece of technology we own does what it can to make us pay attention to it, like an overly eager child tugging on our sleeve, begging, ‘Look what I can do, Dad!’ It is not just that every spare moment is fought for; our technology covets every glance. Flashing lights, vibrations, bells ringing, little red dots, email alerts, notifications, pop-up windows, commercials, news tickers, browser tabs—everything is designed to capture our attention” (pg. 18-19).
My OCD kicks in when I see little, round red notifications on my iPhone. I have to do whatever I have to do to clear the red dot, whether it’s a Facebook notification, updating an app or responding to a reminder on my calendar. In contrast, my wife’s smartphone looks like it has a lousy case of the measles and it’s all I can do to pick it up without clearing at least one red dot.
In contrast to the reality in which you and I live, are the words of a missionary, Paul, to a gathering of believers in the small town of Colosse. “Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence … Stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not be distracted or diverted” (Colossians 1:22, The Message).
Invoking the spiritual disciplines of reading God’s Word, prayer, reflection/meditation in silence and solitude becomes more critical, more necessary, more essential as we move deeper into an age of distraction. Pausing periodically throughout the day — early morning, noon, mid-afternoon and evening — to reflect and take a moment to pray needs to be woven more reliably into the fabric of our daily lives. It will help me — and you — to be consistently tuned in to the message of Jesus, serving as guardrails to help us from being consumed by the constant barrage of distractions and diversions.