I’ve come to the end of my 11th year as a full-time faculty member at Bethel College (Indiana). It’s been a great year, but I am looking forward to the summer to catch up on some much-needed reading, a few writing projects, working in the yard, and a few short family trips.
One of the college courses I teach is an introduction to Christian theology. For the course I make students spend two hours in silence and solitude somewhere and they can spend that time any number of ways. The initial reaction to the assignment when students first read it are dread, a bit of anger perhaps, and definitely a lot of fear. What would one DO being still and quiet for two hours? The students, like many of us, have packed in their lives with all sorts of activities and work, have mashed the accelerator to the floor, and gunned the engine to take each of lives curves as fast as possible.
Add in the short attention span that TV, texting, multi-tasking, and iPhone apps have fostered, and we can barely. Sit. Still. At all.
So, I’ve been challenged.
I’ve been challenged in my prayer life, well challenged by how remedial it’s become. Again. I mean, what IS our capacity to pray any more? Can’t we even pray for a half hour without checking our smartphone, or thinking about trivial matters? How is it that we expect to develop in maturity and Christlikeness (a goal that Christians of all stripes can agree on) when we don’t spend much time with him? Are we more spiritually mature this year than we were five years ago? Or about the same? Those are the questions I’m asking. And I hear others concerned about the same for themselves.
I’ve also been challenged in my ‘knowledge life.’ I marvel at the way the trivial or pragmatic have invaded spaces once occupied with better thoughts. YouTube and Facebook, iPhones and SMS, have taken up hours in the day once spent in reflection and reading. Getting things done, managing our ‘stuff’, and being productive have pushed reflection on deeper subjects (i.e. what we believe and why) off to the side.
My goal for summer is to develop a greater capacity (and hunger) for prayer and for knowledge. The issue is that we’re only given so much time in our lives. Seems a shame to waste it on trivial matters and live an powerless and ineffectual life.
What space-making have you done for reflection? For prayer? How have you managed the press for doing more and being preoccupied with more?