7 Symptoms of a Distracted Life and How To Break Free
“Mom! What are you doing? This isn’t a road!!!”
“Oh my goodness! What have I done??”
I hit the brakes hard darting my eyes swiftly to see how many people were watching me at this most embarrassing moment. Leaving a soccer game many years ago when my boys were still in booster seats and car seats, I’d taken a right instead of a left. A left led to the main road. A right led onto a walking trail. Through the woods where cars don’t fit. A walking trail wide enough for walkers and runners, not minivans in need of turning around.
One would think I might have noticed something as branches scratched and banged against my car. But no, it took the shriek of my ever-cautious first born to bring me back to attention.
I was on the wrong path and needed to get out quick. I needed to get back to the place I’d started.
I find myself facing these situations in life. Most of us can relate. We find ourselves disciplined, living purposefully in a particular area. Over the course of time, we let a thing or two go. Then another. Slowly, we find ourselves slightly off course.
At times we don’t veer too far off course, and it takes only slight adjustments to make our way back. At others we feel near lost, and it takes great effort to find the path we should be on.
The encouragement is that it is never too late to start again. Often it takes reflecting on the beginning of something. Remembering where we once started, our hopes and dreams for that thing, and where we’ve missed the mark.
Do the thing you did at first.
Revelation 2:5 “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.“
While this verse is to the church, it applies to our spiritual lives as well. When we start out on our spiritual walk with the Lord, we walk with intention, closely following His direction. But over time we listen a little less to Him and a little more to the world. And if we spend a good deal of time on the internet, especially social media, we will surely hear the world louder than we hear His voice.
I try to remind myself in these seasons to do the thing I did at first.
What was/is our vision for our family. What did we do at first to accomplish this that we aren’t currently doing? How can we make small adjustments and get back on course?
“Mom, can you stop bouncing your leg? It’s making it hard for me to read.”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah sure,” I replied bringing my attention back to him.
Teaching a struggling reader to read requires stillness and patience. And total presence.
My far-off thoughts and nervously bouncing leg brought to my attention something I’d been attempting to ignore in my soul. I’ve been living distracted on the inside.
While I may be physically present with my family, my mind and soul can be far away. Symptoms begin to present themselves to me hinting that something is wrong. I can ignore them to a point, but eventually I must make a choice.
7 Symptoms of the distracted life:
1- Irritability – little things begin to annoy me. Normal childhood and adolescent interruptions bring out frustration in me rather than compassion, understanding, or a sensitivity to work through them.
2-Impatience- My mind races and jumps from one thing to the next. Therefore, when things don’t flow according to my expectations, I’m quick to react with impatience. The words “hurry up” and “come on” seem to be the most frequently used. As my kids tell stories I find my mind telling them to hurry up.
3- Anxiety – Everything begins to feel like a worry or concern. Settling into sleep is difficult. Waking in the night becomes common. A running to do list is ever present.
4- Loss of train of thought – Lists are everywhere because I find myself mentally incapable of keeping track in my mind. I’m relying on my smartphone for everything. Reminders, lists, schedules. I find myself forgetting what I started to do.
5 – Fatigue, exhaustion – I lack energy to do the things that once brought joy. All I want is sleep or escape.
6 – Procrastination- I find myself putting off even simple tasks. Daily duties mount creating more anxiety.
7 – Constant reach for the phone- And because it all feels too much, or I’m too grumpy, I reach for my phone every few minutes. Just a quick scan of newsfeeds. A quick check on what I might be missing. And this begins the cycle all over again.
Break free in order to live free.
I tell my boys a key to growing in wisdom is to know yourself well. Know God intimately, and know yourself. I need to know my weaknesses, my temptations, my inclinations.
The 7 symptoms above I don’t need a doctor to diagnose for me. I have a Great Physician and a Helper. If I seek Him, He promises to be found. If I desire truth, I will find it. And if I want to truly deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him, then I must do something different than the world.
For me this often looks like removing myself from social media completely for a time. Honestly, I would love to leave it completely most of the time. I’ve noticed that social media creates cynicism in me. The constant opinions wear me down. The lack of reverence for God in our culture disgusts me. It causes me to lose my love for people.
“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
If the greatest command is to love the Lord and the 2nd is to love others, then I should pay attention to the things that make me love people less.
When I see the opinions and beliefs of people, I see causes and issues rather than the person. Jesus always looked to the person first. The lifestyle of the person that was in opposition to God changed AFTER Jesus looked into their hearts, showed them love for them, and revealed the truth.
Our culture twists love attempting to separate truth and love. Culture tries to make everything “ok” by holding the love banner. Jesus didn’t do that. He spoke truth always, yet He showed love at the same time.
Jesus met people where they were, but when they truly encountered the Messiah, they didn’t stay where they were. The love He had for them was so other-worldly that following Him took the place of their once sin-filled life.
The love of Jesus compels me to love in a way that makes no sense. And when I find myself lacking love on the inside, something must change. Because God is love.
Our family has practiced the discipline of screen fasts for many years. When we started taking electronics fasts, it was directed by my husband and me. We simply set a family fast for a week, a month, or however long the Lord led. By instilling this practice in our home with joy, our children now recognize in their own souls when a fast is in order.
At this stage, our children direct the course of their own fasts. They are learning to lean on the Lord rather than us. They are learning to listen to their own souls and tune into the whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Often one of us will begin a screen fast and it encourages another family member to do the same. Then another. It contagiously spreads, and the entire family benefits from it.
Our screen fasts have been accepted with joy because we’ve always made a practice of replacing what we remove with something even better. In the case of a screen fast, we remove what is a poor substitute for life and replace it with the real thing. It’s like taking a diet that has consisted of chips and soda and replacing with a banquet of juicy steaks, colorful vegetables, juicy fruits, and desserts of every kind. It’s feasting on what we didn’t even realize had been missing and wondering why it took us so long to find true nourishment.
Here are a couple of posts I’ve written on taking a break from screens.
5 Benefits of Electronics Fast
Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good
Taking a screen fast as a family requires a little planning and intention, but I promise you it will return more to your family than you can imagine.
The family comes together again as family. We work together and we play together. Dinner prep is done together, chores we all do. After dinner we all clean and then play. We read aloud together, have family devotions, play games. Sometimes we simply sit on the sofas together with no agenda at all. Just like in the “old days” as my boys say. We sit and have nothing at all planned. We allow space and time for conversation to form and move naturally.
I’ve realized how much families are missing out on simply sitting together and talking. Face to face. No screens, no dings, no distractions, no lectures, no to-do lists. Just time together.
This post went longer than I expected. It happens when I write on screen topics. I’m passionate about the family and this is an area I feel the enemy uses against families everywhere.
When my husband recently decided to take a social media break, I decided to follow. At first I felt it was impossible considering I write online. My audience is on the internet. But as I prayed, I could sense God telling me to simply trust Him.
I worry about offending people. Will they wonder why I’m not “liking” their posts anymore? Will they think I’m mad at them? Should I announce a social media fast? (John Crist had a hilarious tweet about this)
All of these worries I can’t really concern myself with. I can only hope that friends don’t take offense. But that can’t be my primary concern.
My family is my first ministry. They deserve my absolute best. My soul is showing me I need a break. And since removing myself from social media I’ve noticed a drastic difference in our home and in my own heart.
I’m truly present with my kids. I’m not thinking about sharing any moment in our home with the social media world. The moments feel more sacred now. I’m more patient, less easily frustrated. I’m laughing more with my kids. My daily duties bring me delight again. The clock is less bossy now. My heart rate has slowed. My thoughts are clear. I can keep track in my own head rather than 20 different lists. I see the eyes of my kids. Truly see them. I hear God’s voice clearer. My love for humanity is returning because I’m not listening to the news and the issues at war against each other.
Is it possible to live in this state forever? I don’t know. I’m learning to quit trying to figure out the future and simply live in step with the Lord one day at a time.
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