“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” Francis Bacon
“Hi! My name is Scott…and I’m an addict.” This is the second year that Jane and I have stayed in a cabin in Tennessee for our vacation. And we’ve already reserved it for next year. Being there again though made me aware that I was an addict and having to go “cold turkey” while there.
The owners named this cabin “Two’s Company.” It’s about ten miles east of Monterey, TN, in the midst of a Mennonite community, called Muddy Pond. The cabin is nestled on the banks of a 1 1/2 acre private lake. It’s built of beautiful wood, inside and out. From the back porch, you walk straight down to the dock. And if you didn’t know where it was, you’d probably never find it. As soon as you turn down the winding country road tightly hemmed by evergreens, you begin to feel the difference…even in the atmosphere. It’s secluded, comfortable, romantic and very private. You’re in the midst of acres of solitude with a feeling of peace over it all.
Each night we’d listen to a chorus of bullfrogs. On the way in, because we’d been there before, I bought a 5 lb bag of dog food to feed the catfish. We watched a fawn come down to the water’s edge. A blue heron, along with a flock of Canadian geese, were our only neighbors. There’s no phone, no cable and no Internet. It’s very isolated and very, very quiet. Yet, the first day there though I found I was feeling a bit anxious…then it hit me. I was detoxing and it was a little uncomfortable. I was feeling the absence of all technological connections. It felt weird, like a new suit that’s a bit scratchy. It took me a couple of days to get used to it, and then I began to thoroughly enjoy it.
It reminded me though once again – I’m an addict, a technology addict. So are most of you. Technology, like phones, TV and cars, is so much a part of our lives, we don’t even realize it and hardly know how to live without it. That was highlighted for me by this recent experience in the mountains. We had to drive half a mile away from the cabin just to get a bar on our phone to be able to text. If we wanted to use the Internet or check email, we had to drive ten miles into town to the public library or down the road half an hour to Starbucks.
Are you an addict? Which would you prefer: pain or being disconnected? The weekly journal, Nature, recently reported, “Given the choice, many people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit idly in a room for 15 minutes, according to a study published in Science.” In an experiment led by social psychologist, Timothy Wilson, at the University of Virginia, 409 undergrads were asked to sit alone without mobile devices, books, or any other kind of entertainment for just 15 minutes. That’s it, a mere 15 minutes. Nearly half found this unpleasant. Allowed to repeat the experiment in the comfort of their own homes, nearly one-third of the study subjects later admitted to cheating.
But here’s the shocking part. In the next experiment, participants were given a small electric shock—akin to a jolt of static electricity—that was so unpleasant that three-quarters of them said they’d be willing to pay not to experience the shock again. But when participants sat in the room alone with their thoughts, 67% of male participants and 25% of female ones were so eager to find something to do that they shocked themselves voluntarily. Did you catch that? A significant percentage of women and majority of men got so bored sitting quietly for 15 minutes that they chose to hurt themselves rather than just sit there. The researchers discovered, too, that this wasn’t just a young person issue. The results were the same when the researchers repeated the experiment with a broader age group sampled from a church and a farmer’s market with participants as old as 77.
A commonly used term today is ADHD. Could it be that ADHD is not so much psychological or physical but rather, technological? Let’s be honest, in an eye candy, supersaturated technological world, even our relaxation tends to be busy. Most have no idea how addicted we are. I know I don’t.
We have nomophobia and aren’t even aware of it. That’s a term for “no-mobile-phone-phobia.” It’s when people feel anxious when they lose their cell phone, run out of battery, or have no network coverage. We’re so dependent on our phones, some 20% of us check our email in bed. Half of us take our phones to the beach. Symptoms of nomophobia include being unable to turn off your phone, obsessively checking it, constantly topping off the battery and even taking it to the bathroom. (Ok, it’s a little weird when someone is in a bathroom stall having a conversation on their phone.)
This not only affects us relationally with each other, worse, it affects us relationally with our Heavenly Father. In Psalm 46:10 God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Could it be that so many of us are stunted spiritually because we don’t have a clue what it means to “Be still, and know that I am God”? Could it be our Heavenly Father can hardly get a word in edgewise because we’re so preoccupied with all the racket, the temporal and trivial of this world? It’s not just that we don’t spend time in the Word, but even when we’re in the Word, our souls are off somewhere. Or, we’re ticking off the minutes until we’re done. We struggle with turning it all off. To have a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father, to be effective in digging into the Word and prayer, we must. Spiritual intimacy and depth only come from times of soul quiet without distraction.
Wouldn’t we be less anxious and experience more of God’s peace if we knew what it was to “Be still, and know that I am God”? What troubles you? Is it your circumstances? Finances tight? Are their marital or family issues? Maybe your conscience is pricking you? Or, you’re troubled by sin’s grip on your life? Do you lack trust in God? Love? Joy? Peace?
Parents often ask children, “Are you listening to me? Are you paying attention?” Our Father is asking us the same thing. It’s usually not vile sin that keeps us from hearing His voice; it’s just the countless distractions.
Technology has an on and off switch. Let’s choose to tune it out and turn it off so that we can carefully tune in to that still, small voice that makes an eternal difference in our lives (1 Kings 19:12). Solitude, quiet prayer and contemplation are vital for our spiritual health. The Lord promises us in the book of Isaiah, “in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (30:15).