Driven to Distraction

On Tuesday I was sitting at my desk, clicking the keys, the glow of the computer screen on my face. And all of the sudden it was as if I woke up. My mind had taken a break, and I wasn’t immediately sure how long the break had lasted. I looked at the clock in the upper right hand corner of the computer monitor and realized I’d been doing what I’d been doing for the last forty minutes. But wait, what had I been doing? 

I almost couldn’t account for it. Forty minutes earlier I had finished a meeting. I had come into the office, sat down at my desk and set my mind to write an email, or research an idea, or…or something. I didn’t even know. But there I was, three quarters of an hour later absorbed in some mindless web page—a product review, I think, for something I never intended to buy.

I wish I could attribute my lapse in focus to an attention-deficit disorder or that post-lunch listlessness that renders all productivity nearly impossible. Neither of those excuses are valid in my case. I just do this sometimes. More times than I care to admit, actually. I’m constantly distracted. I set my mind to accomplish something—something real, necessary, urgent, something that matters—and then the tiniest little thought or question sends me down the rabbit-hole of Facebook or Wikipedia or, worst of all, Google. And when I finally come up for air I’ve wasted ten minutes, twenty…or forty.

When I suddenly stirred from my stupor I had an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. My eyes were barely skimming across the page, my foot was tapping, my heart was beating quickly and my mind was completely unfocused. My sidestep had not only disconnected me, it had stressed me out. The experience really spinned me. In a moment of clarity that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit I realized that something deeper was going on. I stood up, closed my computer and made a beeline for the prayer room downstairs. Once there I huddled in the corner, my back against the wall, and I just tried to quiet my mind and heart.

It wasn’t an easy task. I realized just how out of practice I was at slowing down, at focusing. In the quiet of that room I recognized just how much my life is governed by the moment. It is woefully undisciplined. I float from one thing to the next on a sea of distractions; I attend to situations and relationships and plans as they rise to the surface. I never close my eyes tight, block out the world, take a deep breath and dive for the deeper things.

And just as the Holy Spirit had warned me that something deeper was going on He nudged me and told me that my propensity toward distraction was aiding me in making myself unavailable. I fill every moment with something. I distract myself from the important things that happen—or need to happen—because they scare me. I disengage from reflection because I’m not certain I want to deal with what I see there.

I read an article a couple weeks ago during one of my sessions of distraction that, ironically, was about our craving for distraction. We crave it. Almost anything we crave is not good for us, at least not in mass quantities

Distraction is the enemy.

Distraction is the enemy because the Enemy is in distraction.

We know one who would love nothing more than to keep us distracted. When we are easily distracted we are also easily kept from focusing on the things that matter, the things worth striving for. We are kept from seeing the things God wants for us. I’m now convinced that, for me, this is a spiritual issue, and as such, I’m taking it very seriously.

Tuesday was a wake-up call, and I heard it loud and clear. I am taking strides, eliminating distractions, seeking prayer, adding structure and discipline back into my life.

Because I belong to one who is stronger than my wandering mind.