I went twenty-eight days without screens. Seriously.
No Facebook. No Instagram. No podcasts. No Netflix. No Kindle. No Google. No photos. None of it.
I gave up something that overtook much of my life in the hopes of focusing on God. A sincere sacrifice to encounter His presence.
And it changed my life forever. Seriously.
I’ve never been more motivated to conquer my fears, go to where I’ve never been, and to do what I was always worried to do. On top of that, my relationship with Christ has been amplified more than it has in quite a while. (And I don’t even consider that connection bad before!)
Here are 5 main takeaways for life and faith I received from this awesome journey:
1. Freedom, Freedom, Freedom
I’m not necessarily saying we are controlled by machines, but it felt incredibly freeing to say no to those things.
No need to worry about the stresses of getting mad at a social media post. No problems of trying to silence so much noise. No keeping up with the internet that tends to feed so much time-wasting garbage. No having to see threads of comments and arguments put up for that very purpose. No wasting 20 minutes trying to figure out what to watch on Netflix when my wife and I can just talk and be present with one another.
I truly felt a weight lifted from me.
This freedom also extended spiritually. It was a gentle reminder of no longer being a slave to sin and darkness but of being set free by the savior who made it possible. Something we all tend to take for granted.
Also in feeling this freedom, I felt motivated and empowered. So much so that I just had to do what stirred my heart. To do what I’m passionate about so much more than I thought possible. Which leads me to the next point.
2. There is Time
One of the most overused phrases in our language is “busy”. When, really, so many never seem too busy to binge Stranger Things in 2 sittings or watch 1 youtube episode which turns into 4 or scroll through Facebook for only 10 minutes before bed which ends up being 50.
There indeed is time. And there is especially time for the things you’re passionate about. For the things that Christ has placed on your heart. I'm not saying that this is anything remotely groundbreaking but it’s something we forget with the technology we’ve fallen so deeply in love with in recent years.
I’ve shared many times before that writing is one of my passions. And last month, I can honestly say I wrote more in a 30 day span than I ever had in my life (that includes when I was in school). And I loved every second of it! Within those writing runs was a short e-book (which I’ll get to in a post soon to come), a nearly finished first draft of a full-length faith-based motivational book, poems, pieces of fiction, hundreds of ideas and what is probably thousands of prayers.
I realized about 8 days into writing so much on this journey that no one is ever too busy for what God puts on their hearts. What tends to hold so many back is the belief that there's no time. If you’re called, you make time for that which drives you. You just have to be willing to give up that Netflix or Facebook time for something else.
For example, instead of checking Facebook in the morning, like I normally did, I used that time to write. Instead of watching a 3 minute (what would probably end up being pointless) video on YouTube, I’d write. It’s amazing the time that opens up when distractions are gone.
You have no other choice but to move with what God is stirring within.
3. Explore Outside the Search Bar
There is an enormously beautiful world out there created by God and it’s not called the internet.
We MUST experience the earth more. More of being outside. More walking to the places you’ve never been to just to see rather than just to see it on a 2 x 3 screen. The world was not meant to be a virtual one. I believe we are more than a generation of people stuck in the Matrix.
I went for a walk every day I could this past month. Sometimes with my daughter and wife, other times by myself. And each time I’d make sure to go a different way. And sometimes, I explored places I’d never been to before. Even going to the woods where I wasn’t sure if I was trespassing or not.
Once I even took my daughter and I'm so glad I did. I’ve never seen her light up as much as when we explored through those trees, stumbled upon that creek and had a pinecone tossing contest into water. It was like a whole new world was revealed in front of her-because it was.
We were meant to experience this world God created in the same way. With more awe and intimacy. More of our eyes on what’s under the skies. Less of what’s we’ve only seen on the screen.
I encourage you to put down the phone for at least 20 minutes a day. Even do it a few times a week if that’s all you can find. Go outside and search. Move a little if that’s all you can do. Breathe in the fresh air. Sit in the sound of the earth around you (no matter if it’s urban or rural). But enjoy it. Be present in it.
Then you can appreciate more of the physical world that God intended you to experience. And then it can lead you to his most phenomenal physical creations-other humans.
4. We Are to Engage
More than ever, I’ve talked with our neighbors next door more than I ever had prior. I still have quite a bit to learn and know of them, but still. There was an honest need and tug to go out of my way to speak to them and share with them, even if it was just a tiny bit. The same could be said for all my other relationships.
In my marriage I desired to just be present with my wife more. I love talking with her, sharing with her and making her laugh as she does the same to me. With my daughter, I love playing with her, reading to her and having new experiences. This past month only opened up my eyes more to see the times I was ever holding back in those two main relationships due to screen distractions.
At church, with friends and strangers, I honestly felt compelled to go out of my way to speak to people. To communicate with them and give them true eye contact with open ears.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that there was a true yearning to experience true human interaction during this month. When we remove that which is blinding us (screens, addictions, laziness, routines, selfishness), our eyes seem to wake up our hearts. Those hearts are meant for others. And for the One who created them.
5. We Need More of God
God's presence was what I sought after and God made Himself known in more ways than one.
I heard God more clearly than I ever had in a month long period of my life. (Promise to share more soon). I never felt more assured and calm in understanding He was present. Nor did I ever feel more confident and strong in knowing what I was supposed to do as I continued forward in my story of life.
As Ash Wednesday tells us, as we start the Lenten season-we are mortal. And as mortal beings, we need more of the eternal God. It's a time to remember that we need God, that God gave Himself for us and that He defeated death for His Glory and us.
It’s revolutionary how much you’re able to hear and discern those truths without distractions. When those things are gone-those that steal your freedom, absorb your time, evaporate your engagement, and deceive your heart of real exploration-you can truly see. You can truly hear. You can truly know what the Lord has set out before you.
And what has the Lord set out before you? First and foremost, last and never least, it’s Himself.
God is what fills. God is what satisfies. God is what clears the hurts and heartaches. God is what silences the noise. God is what helps us see who we were called to be. And within that, we are people meant to come back to Him-to the source we started.
DISTRACTIONS REMOVED, GOD REVEALED.
God truly has changed my life forever after this month.
God has spoken. God has moved. And God is continuing.
There is so much it entails, I’m sure, and so much I can’t wait to share with you in the coming days and weeks. But the main reality that was proven time and time again was this:
If we sincerely sacrifice, God will sincerely show up.
May this be your journey not only in this Lenten Season, but also in your story.
May you sacrifice. May you seek.
And may God show up in ways that will change your life forever.