Last weekend, I spent 5 days unplugged on Catalina Island. No phone, no TV, no computer, no music… no technology of any kind. I loved having ZERO internet and cell phone reception on the island. The majority of my days would be spent sitting in front of the Pacific Ocean, reading, praying & writing. It was so blissful.
It was literally INCREDIBLE. I could not remember the last time I had peace like that…
And then I realized something: it is nearly impossible to acquire peace & tranquility (of this kind) when I am back at home. Why can’t I rest like this in LA?
It was this realization that answered my question: I rarely get distraction-free time with God.
Recently, my husband and I went out to lunch with our baby. We were sitting at the table, eating our meal and directly to our right sits a family of 5: two parents with their three sons, seemingly between the ages of 5-10. As they sat down, I noticed every single family member (including each son) pulled out their own personal iPad or iPhone and spent the entirety of their meal on their screens. Not a single word was spoken… not a single glance exchanged… It was heartbreaking. Our generation has hit a point where, even while we are spending precious moments with our loved ones, prefer to be in cyber world as opposed to actual social world. For whatever reason, we can’t disconnect. We can’t unplug… What’s worse is that the reason we can’t unplug appears to be because it’s difficult for us to engage deeply with people… we prefer the superficiality & surface-leveledness of online relationships as opposed to truly deep ones… the ones that foster compassion & connection.
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”- Richard J. Foster
This is how we are wired culturally. If we even attempt to get meditative, peaceful, & equip ourselves with tranquility, like I did in Catalina, we instantly become distracted by our texts, our emails, our Facebook pages…. We cannot seem to simply stop, rest & enjoy communion with God. And in order to converse with & hear God, we need to take time to sit in His presence… distraction-free.
So why is it so important to “unplug”?
We disconnect with the world around us in order to connect more deeply & more richly with God. In this way, we allow Him in & we position ourselves to be transformed by Him. Even Jesus, the son of God, knew he needed that personal connection and would occasionally choose that over staying with the crowds of people.
We see Jesus making time to pray and be alone with God many times (Matthew 14:23, Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35), even amidst his ministry years. He would retreat to a private place, not just to be alone, but to enjoy one-on-one intimacy with his father in heaven. So if we desire to walk as Jesus did, we must fervently seek alone time with God.
“Inward fellowship of this kind transforms the inner personality. We cannot burn the eternal flame of the inner sanctuary and remain the same, for the divine fire will consume everything that is impure.”- Richard J. Foster
Why is meditation so crucial to our inner transformation?
1. It creates inner peace. Not circumstantial peace that changes based on what’s happening that day. True spiritual peace that supersedes ALL circumstances. When we read Jesus’ words, “Peace I leave with you, not as the world gives” (John 14:27), we actually take in that reality when we’re communing with him.
2. It helps us hear God’s voice. Which is absolutely crucial to our relationship with him. In this way, we’re allowing ourselves to be shaped & molded by him, rather than merely spending our prayer time ranting off our desires & frustrations. We are leaving space for him to speak.
3. It allows us to stop & rest. In our world, this sounds impossible. But stopping to rest is actually crucial to both our spiritual growth & our emotional well-being. The more we rest, the more ability we have to connect with God, with others & engage more powerfully in our jobs & relationships.
4. It enables us to deal with our hardship. Just as Jesus promises to give us peace, he also promises comfort & guidance when we are in desert seasons. Meditating gives us the stamina we need even before hardship happens.
5. It excites us to mend what’s broken. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more and more we start to become like him and develop his heart for the world. When we acquire Jesus’ heart for the world, we start to mourn for the things that hurt him: poverty, injustice, pain & sickness… This fuels us to be lights in a world full of darkness.
How can I start to meditate like this?
First, your phone should probably be on silent… or off.
- The right place– I like to go to the beach or the coffee shop. Somewhere that allows you to really focus & feel at peace and that is truly distraction-free. A place where you can enjoy God’s creation & it’s beauty, such as the ocean, a park, or a meadow can also be helpful.
- The right time- everyone has a different time of day where they feel the most engaged and peaceful… for some it’s at night, for some it’s midday, for me it’s the morning. As a mom, I need to make sure I get my God time in bright & early before the rest of my time is taken up by baby & husband. Plus… getting your time in the morning helps equip you for the rest of the day. It refreshes your soul & helps you tackle whatever obstacles may come.
- The right text– the meditation of scripture is a central reference point that keeps all other forms of meditation in proper perspective. It centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage. By taking in a single parable, a single verse or even a single word, you are allowing the words of Jesus to to take root in you.
“Always remember that we enter the stories of the new testament not as a passive observers, but as active participants… At one time, you are the publican: at another time, you are the prodigal.. at another time you are Mary Magdalene: at another time, Peter in the porch… Til your whole New Testament is all over autobiographic of you.”– Alexander Whyte
What helps you unplug & spend time with God?
For more on meditation, check out Richard J. Foster’s book, “The Celebration of Discipline”. It is a phenomenal Christian book on how spiritual disciplines lead to intimacy with God.