I have been reflecting over the last few days on how easily my life becomes cluttered. Recently on the one day of the week I have set aside for ministry- and church-planting work, I found that I had done really every sort of activity but what I had intended for the day. Each one of those things had crept in, one at a time. None of them were bad, exactly, but that day they amounted to noise rather than real work.
I have long imagined that it would become be less true if/when I can devote myself to a single vocation (i.e. the priesthood). But the truth is, I’ll never have a single vocation. It may come to pass that I become paid full-time for ministry work in (more or less) a single community. Even if that transition occurs some day, I will still be a husband, a father, a son, a NAMS companion.
I therefore appreciated this post from Dan Wilt.
The whispering stops as I learn to handle the informative power of my phone, rather than the informative power of my phone handling me. A new virtue emerges in the place of my first order impulse, as I learn to face down my [fear-of-missing-out].… And my heart is quieter, more focused, more attentive to the voice of my Shepherd, more ready to be present to the cultures in which I will represent Jesus, when I succeed on this battleground every morning.
When I force myself to not even look at my phone until after I have spent time with the Lord Jesus in the scriptures, and spent time in prayer, I find I almost instantly in a better spiritual place. One change in the morning routine results in a life that feels more orderly. I am more attentive to what is happening around me spiritually. There may not be less “stuff” in my life, but it’s more manageable. It feels, metaphorically speaking, like more of the stuff is in its rightful place instead of pressing in around me.
I have also observed that when I set the bar at the level of
- reading and meditating on the Bible (rather than reading a certain amount to check off a to-do item),
- evaluating my life in light of what I have read,
- offering up my cares and concerns to God,
- and listening to him speak into my life
that I don’t have to meet the bar perfectly every day to maintain a certain degree of health. What I mean is that even if I rush through the reading, or find that my prayers were really just me reading off a wishlist to God and hurrying through the end, or what-have-you, I am still in a better place for having done it. Even if the discipline was not undertaken whole-heartedly that day, I have still set aside that time. When one day I have hurried through my routine, I found it much easier on the following day to make an incremental improvement (slowing down) than to be faced with completely adjusting my priorities.
So I guess what I am saying is: legalism may be unhealthy, but a strict discipline of avoiding my smartphone until I have kept my morning appointment with God has been immensely helpful.