Be Still and Know that I am God

I Don’t Need my Phone.

The scripture, “Be still and know that I am God, (Psalm 46:10,)” is one of my favorites. However, a few months ago, I experienced being still and experiencing God in an unexpected way. As part of a graduate course assignment, I completed a twenty-four-hour media fast. Like the students that Andrew Postman writes about in the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death, I shrugged, “thinking it’s no big deal.”[1] However, as time passed, I struggled with the idea of being without my phone for 24 hours. I procrastinated for two weeks. Finally, I realized I that my anxiety stemmed from fear of being cut off from friends and family for 24 hours. I live alone, so a media fast meant no human contact for 24 hours. Since my primary mode of communication with friends and family is texting, the thought of not texting terrified me. Also, I have a morning routine that includes reading an emailed devotional. I text my sister-in-law and another friend every morning. Both activities felt essential. I enjoy my routine and did not want to change it even for 24 hours. The struggle revealed a greater dependence on media than I anticipated. Finally, at 10:30 am on a Tuesday morning, I turned off my phone. During the 24 hours that followed, I discovered three things: media distracts me, leisure means celebration, and I may be amusing myself to death by overuse of media.

Stepping Inside

I settled into my recliner to read the assignments for class. Without the distraction of constant notifications on my phone, my mind focused on meaning rather than just reading words.  In Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Pieper writes, “Observation is a tense activity…To contemplate, on the other hand, to “look” … means to open one’s eyes receptively to whatever offers itself to one’s vision… the things seen enter into us…without … any effort or strain.”[2] Without the distraction of media, I contemplated the words, allowing them to enter my mind more intensely than usual. Usually, I struggle with retention and often must read a passage several times. During the fast, I immersed myself in what I read. As C.S. Lewis writes in “Meditation in the Toolshed,” “You can step outside one experience only by stepping inside another.”[3] By turning off my phone, television, and computer, I stepped outside the distractions of media and into the worlds created by Pieper, Postman, and Ordway.

In Leisure, the Basis of Culture, Pieper writes, “To rest from work means that time is reserved for divine worship.”[4] Using Pieper’s definition, I did not rest from work for most of the 24-hour fast.  However, at intermittent times during the day, I closed my eyes and attempted to quiet my thoughts. I wanted to set aside time to celebrate God in the manner Pieper describes, “when we worship God, we are doing so in celebration. The sole purpose of celebrating God through worship is to do so for its own sake.”[5] According to Pieper worship in this manner is the “most sublime form of affirmation of the world as a whole is the fountainhead of leisure.”[6]

While prayer, reading the Bible and reading devotional are part of my daily routine, I realized that I do not celebrate God during those times. My mind wanders to the tasks of the day or to what I need from God. I am rarely just quiet and still. Attempting to be still was no easy task, but for the first time in months, I closed my eyes and did not ask God anything.  I relaxed and allowed the Holy Spirit to embrace me, comfort me, and reassure me that all is well. By taking those moments to reconnect with the divine, I think I understand Pieper’s challenge “Cut off from worship of divine, leisure becomes laziness and work inhuman.”[8]

Because I began my fast at 10:30 am, my experience occupied two hours of a second day. I missed my morning routine. During the night, I instinctively reached for my phone to check the time. It felt odd not having my phone within reach. I felt disconnected because I did not text my friend and sister-in-law. I finished the fast by completing the reading for next week. Admittedly, I looked at the clock frequently during the two hours and was quite relieved when 10:30 arrived.

As I turned on my phone, I realized that I needed to change some of my habits and the fast helped me see my weaknesses. I want to understand and experience moments of divine worship. I want to break habits that prevent me from focusing on and embracing what I read. I realized that the absence of media helped me focus, brought me closer to God and awakened some old activities that I will undoubtedly continue.

 

[1] Neil Postman, Amusing ourselves to death: public discourse in the age of show business (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2006), xii.

[2] Josef Pieper, Alexander Dru, and James V. Schall, Leisure: the basis of culture; The philosophical act(San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009), 25.

[3] C. S. Lewis and Walter Hooper, God in the dock: essays on theology and ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 233.

[4] Pieper, 67.

[5] Pieper, 72.

[6] Pieper, 72.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 68.

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