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Unplugging

Gerrit Scott Dawson

Have you participated in a 24-Hour Famine where you had nothing to eat or drink except for a little water or juice? Many youth groups host this event to help raise money for and awareness of the problem of hunger in the world. If you don’t kill each other during the night, you often begin to feel a deep connection with those who passed the long, hungry night with you. Besides the 24-Hour Famine, I’ve fasted from food at other times. It’s amazing how much my prayer life improves when I substitute prayer for food!

Media Fast

Fasting from food was not nearly as hard as the day I fasted from media. For twenty-four hours, there was to be no TV, no radio, no CDs, no DVDs, no magazines or newspapers, no video games, no texting, no email, no social media, no Internet or computer at all. I probably should have added my cell phone too.

So, I thought as the morning began, what am I supposed to do? I never realized how addicted I was to screens, music, and noise in general. The silence of that morning was unnerving. I got to eat, but I had to force my mind away from media and onto God. I read my Bible at the time I normally would have read the sports section.

Driving to work, I reached for the radio out of habit but pulled back. Instead, I prayed my way through the traffic and thought about other people and their needs. At the office, I couldn’t work on the computer, so I did some reading and took notes by hand. (Wow! My handwriting had gotten bad!) I spent the afternoon visiting people who needed pastoral care.

The night of the fast was the hardest. I really wanted to watch television, but I lingered over dinner and talked with my family. Then we took a walk down the street. When we returned, I read a Christian book. Several times I had to pull my hand away from the TV remote. I went to bed early, thinking about the times I had stayed up late watching or listening to media.

The next morning the fast was over, and I gobbled up the sports section and turned on the radio with the same gusto that I had scarfed down a pizza after the 24-Hour Famine. But I realized, too, what a great day the media fast had been. During those 24 hours, I was less distracted; and it seemed easier for God to get through to me. I was also more aware of others and their needs. And as much as I hated to admit it, my life seemed to be more peaceful in general.

The media fast was difficult. But in that short time, I gained a brand new perspective on life. I believe we all would feel God’s presence more often if we didn’t jam our minds with so much info-clutter. In the silence, the Spirit does speak; and the words of scripture satisfy much more than the chatter of all our media.

 

DIG DEEPER

What did Jesus mean when he said that we do “not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4b, NRSV)? Consider what things you could substitute for the word bread in this passage—iPods, email, text messages, DVDs, Facebook, Twitter, video games, and so on. What do Jesus’ words mean for our world today?

TRY A MEDIA FAST
For one day, give up media. Instead of info-clutter, fill your mind with God’s word and with prayers for others. Become more aware of God’s presence, and listen for the Spirit’s voice.

Gerrit Scott Dawson is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

—from Devo'Zine (January/February 2006). Copyright © 2005 by Upper Room Ministries. All rights reserved.
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