Yes, you read that title correctly.
I won't be looking at screens for a whole month.
No TV. No cell phone. No computer. No Netflix. No blog reading. No YouTube. No Podcasts. No social media. None of it. (Excluding a few exceptions like text messages, phone calls, and emails. I have to at least try to be a good husband, father and Youth Director!)
That may sound a little crazy in this day and age, and I honestly hope so.
JESUS REMOVED DISTRACTIONS
I was recently moved when reading the Gospel of Matthew in chapters 3 and 4. In chapter 3, it tells of Christ getting baptized by John the Baptist. Here the Spirit of God descends upon Him and verse 17 states "...a voice from heaven said "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."" Right from here Jesus heads to the desert to be tempted by Satan, fasting for 40 days. And it's after this point that Jesus begins His ministry as it states in chapter 4 verse 12.
This symbolic start intrigued me. Because Jesus did three big things in starting His journey.
HE WAS FILLED- Jesus the man is baptized and, in the process, the very voice of God lets those who were there know that Christ is not just man, but Divine. (Matthew 3:13-17).
HE WAS EMPTIED- He rids himself of everything-all distractions, any shelter, any food-literally everything, to focus on what He absolutely needs: God the Father. (Matthew 4:1-11)
HE FILLED OTHERS- He then begins the most earth shattering ministry in History. (Matthew 4:12-17)
And so by filling Himself only then to be emptied, Jesus changed the course of humanity forever.
SIMILAR TO LENT
Many different dominations use a teaching very much like this during the lenten season. Emptying ourselves of distractions for 40 days before Easter in order to focus on the joy and truth of Christ. This then ultimately leads to the remembrance of His death and celebration of Him rising. Inward focus for outward action.
The power of this spiritual practice has even been brought front and center in pop culture recently.
Actors Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson participated in various forms of fasting and prayer when getting ready for their roles as Jesuit priests for the film "Silence". Both have said how it changed their lives, with Garfield stating that he now "...has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ".
FASTING CAN ONLY HELP
As a follower of Christ, I don't necessarily believe that we have to do something in order to be His people except to Repent and say yes to His offer. I believe He has already done everything needed by giving grace, hope and mercy through the Cross and Resurrection. But I also know that fasting is something that has been a spiritual practice by Christians for millennia.
In fact, the earliest Christians would fast in order to keep themselves focused on Christ inwardly so that then they could live outwardly. Giving generous gifts and time to those who needed it as they abstained from food. They gave up what they could taste in order to become more hungry for God.
Christ even said WHEN you fast not if in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:16. (Side Note: It also says later in the same section to fast in secret, which I intend to do, while doing my best to not complain. I'm simply posting this to share for prayers because I feel that I'm going to need them).
LESS SCREEN PRESENCE. MORE OF GOD'S. (LORD WILLING)
For me, screens are all around my life. At work. At home. At the gym. In the line at the grocery store. Everywhere. They've become a time-absorber more than I like to admit. And so often, the time they take is not exactly beneficial. Binge-watching, seeing sometimes pointless videos and articles, and getting frustrated by Facebook posts seems to be the latest loop.
But maybe in fasting from the screens my eyes get glued to, I can see the goodness of our infinite God more clearly. Becoming hungrier through the fast.
This past month I felt my spirit filled from a retreat we put nearly 4 months of work into as it changed the lives of so many students. Seeing God work through them and speak to me in ways I never expected has blown me away. Now, we are just on the cusp of preparing for the Summer season which is arguably one of the most busy yet powerful times of the year.
And since we are in this "in-between stage" until we fully start preparing, I'm ready to be emptied.
I hope by ridding myself of these distractions for a month I can focus in different ways on the one need of life: Our Living God.
And I hope that by emptying myself in this way, I may be filled by Christ to fill others.
By His will and for His Glory.