He [The Lord] says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
What is it about an image of beautiful scenery that inspires us to feel calm and serene? In the brief moment that we glance at the image we can imagine the calm and peacefulness of the moment. If we pause long enough we might even be able to imagine the ripple of the waves, the tenderness of a soft breeze, the warmth of the sun, the vividness of the colours, and the fresh smell of the clean air.
There is a longing that is ignited in our spirit when we see these images that for most of us are rare experiences in our day-to-day reality. For some high performing people these moments might be almost non-existent. On a daily basis we are flooded with responsibilities that occupy our thoughts and fuel our activity. When we do find a few minutes to relax, there is the sound of the street, the humming of electrical appliances, and the constant interruption of some sort of electronic device: phone, email, text, radio, TV…
What’s upsetting most about the stress of modern day living is that our new reality of electronic communication is training us to have short attention spans and to be dependent on the constant input. Many people actually find it difficult to ‘unplug’ even for a few minutes.
Often the first activity of the day morning is to check a phone or computer to see who has said what throughout the night. And from this moment on, throughout the day the phone and computer are constantly being monitored for incoming communication.
This morning, in the span of an hour, I found myself looking at my phone for new messages several times just because it was there. It has become a habit, that even when the buzz of a new message isn’t interrupting my thoughts its actually programmed into my thinking to check to see what’s waiting for me. And I know I’m not alone!
As a society, our modern conveniences are actually making it difficult to concentrate. They are shortening our attention span and interrupting our creativity. Overall, we are not just losing our serenity; we are changing our ability to think. I’m reminded of a profound comment a few years ago when my family billeted a few children from Africa. The instructions to host families were that there was to be no television or electronics for the visiting children because those devices would have a negative impact on their creativity and talent. Whoa. Wait a second. What about our own children then? What about us adults who are so caught up in communicating online that we are burning ourselves out with the constant multi-tasking and constant recovery from the barrage of interruptions?
Even as I write this message I have the periphery of emails coming into my inbox flashing on my screen (yes, I could turn it off, I just forgot because I’m used to communicating electronically throughout the day). On top of what we can visually see visually see on our computer screens there is also the pixilation of our screen as a whole that is a constant moving image. We just don’t consciously see it, but our brains are required to process and interpret this movement.
What does all this have to do with success? Perhaps it’s obvious to you, as it’s becoming more obvious to me in recent months and years, but sometimes we need to be reminded and certainly we can all benefit by educating our young people on the stress of constant ‘noise’, input, and electronic communication.
God created us to connect to Him: the all mighty, all knowing, all powerful. Our modern society is becoming more and more distanced from His Holy Spirit. We are also becoming more and more distanced from the powers even of our own thinking, let alone His. We are becoming like waves tossed in the ocean; fallen leaves gathering together in piles that initially are fun, but which over time end up composting from the elements. We’re all doing it and we’re barely recognizing the ‘death’ it’s causing in our peace and ultimately in our success.
The calling from a beautiful scenery picture that speaks to your spirit is likely screaming at you to slow down and be still. God promises to provide for ALL our needs. But we have to stop to listen to him. The serenity we crave will enable us to hear God speak to us in a way that will guide our thoughts, which will guide our words, our actions, and our results. What provides this peace in our spirits and souls? The kind we sense when we gaze longingly at these beautiful images? If you look long enough you’ll find that this kind of peace doesn’t come from financial success, or the satisfaction of a good workout, healthy meal, or job well done, or even the connection to your friends and family. You find peace in your soul because you have been still long enough to ‘hear’ God speak to you in way that means something to you personally in whatever situation or circumstance you find yourself in. And all the other things: finances, health, relationships, success, etc. are the results God says will follow. (Mat 6:33, Luke 12:31 and more)
Because money seems to be as important as oxygen for survival in modern day living, and because money is a tool that can provide us with experiences that provide us with peace, joy, and serenity we naturally experience financial rewards as success and peacefulness. But it’s important that we put all this into perspective and recognize that we have to interrupt the ‘busyness’ and constant stimulation in order to experience God’s peace long enough to actually let Him guide us in the areas of success that are important for each of us individually.
The peace we all desire will be reflected differently in each of our lives: relationally, physically, financially, and emotionally. I, for one, am aware of the stress caused by the day-to-day barrage of interruptions and its overall negative impact on the peace in my life in ALL of these areas. It’s the spiritual success that will provide this peace that will ultimately provide the success in the other areas also, but with the peace in whatever your current situation is, ultimately it won’t even matter – how ironic is that!?
I know in my own life and for many others, that some of these modern day communication methods have programmed my own thinking so it’s much harder to enjoy downtime during hours that have conventionally been recognized as ‘work hours’. As I write this I challenge you, I am also challenging myself, to identify the ‘noise’ in your life and to recognize its addictive power over your peace. Then, armed with this insight ask the Lord to help you to break free from the addiction to begin to experience more of the stillness He wants us to have so he can speak into our lives. This way He can guide us to the success He has planned for each of us in a way that will bring glory to Him in the process.