Slavery & Rest
School holidays bring dramatic change in most households, and we’re no exception. One of the things that changes is the number of people available to cover our Church rota, and so it transpired that I was asked to lead the evening service last night at ECB – and our ministry team had asked me to talk about Digitox.
Hmmm. I’m really comfortable standing on a stage at events talking to any number of people, but I feel a greater burden of responsibility when I’m doing so at Church. Talking about the book to an conference audience is one thing and to be honest I don’t often talk directly about my faith in those situations (maybe I should).
So how does Digitox tie to the messages found in the Bible? My Wife is reading an excellent book called “A Beautiful Mess” by Danielle Strickland – she points out that the only people who never get to rest are slaves, and we have found ourselves to be much more capable of rest over the last three years – slowly coming to the realisation that we were all enslaved by the desire to be online, with our gadgets, doing our own thing all the time.
This is not limited to our own desires either, those around us constantly demand our time – tunnelling through the virtual world with a constant stream of messages, questions and information – and we tend to feel obligated to respond for fear of seeming rude.
When you get used to taking prolonged breaks from the internet (in our case from 7pm-7am and all day Sunday’s) you find yourself able to think. This is no small feat in the modern world, and can be very uncomfortable at first. How many times do you ‘escape’ from reality into the world of gaming, social media or general browsing? It has become second nature for many of us to fill ‘free’ time by choosing to jump on line.
Without the ability to do that, many of us have no idea what to do next.
Christians know that they need to ‘listen’ to hear God’s voice, and we know that the noise of life works against that (and always did). The modern term for this inner quiet is mindfulness, and there are huge mental health benefits to focussing on your inner thoughts and keeping the outside world at bay for a time. Rest is hard to do, and sometimes it needs to be enforced.
Never underestimate the benefit of daydreaming……
A few years ago, at a service in St George’s Chapel Windsor, we heard a sermon about social media “We are so focussed on managing how we appear to the outside world, that we forget how important it is to focus on our true, inner self and our relationship with God”. Gym memberships are rising as we seek to perfect our external appearance, but I wonder how much healthier we would be if we focussed on trying to perfect our inner selves and our spiritual health.
One of the biggest benefits to taking a break from the draw of instant gratification and distraction has been the mental peace. Especially on a Saturday evening as the internet get’s closed off at 7pm until 7am Monday morning – our family has become much happier, and much more creative – and it’s given us more time to consider our spiritual wellbeing too.
We loved being on BBC Sunday Morning Live a few weeks ago, and are avid watchers of the show – but of course we cannot participate in the online debates, which was cause for upset in our household yesterday as the issue of Faith Schools was discussed. This is something of a hot topic in our friend group, as ours are unusual as we fought to get them into a Catholic School ten miles away from where we live, spending time going through formal appeal as we’re not Catholic.
Well not because of the educational performance aspect. At the time the school was not doing as well as several of our more local options.
And not because of any ‘class exclusivity’ either. There are a higher number of pupils from poorer, low income backgrounds and children from other countries than our local schools too.
These were two points raised on the sofa that simply do not hold true for us.
We sent our children there because we’re a Christian family that try and put our Christian values first. We believe that there should be a time for quiet contemplation and a time for collective prayer and worship that unites a school community. The last Ofsted report stated:
“It is a friendly, supportive community, in which students feel safe and well cared for. The school promotes students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development exceptionally well”
Which in a nutshell sums up the school for us, and why we felt that a Christian faith school was the right option. To deny (or place out of reach due to fees) this option would be tragic and wrong.
I wish we could have used social media to express this yesterday, but the world didn’t stop turning because we couldn’t!