Ken Clingen ’82, ‘87JD
“Stay awake!” Jesus admonishes his disciples. With this parable (which is followed by the parable of the ten virgins that we’ll read tomorrow) Matthew emphasizes the need to stay awake and be prepared. And yet, during Jesus’ hour of greatest need in the Garden of Gethsemane, while he is praying so fervently that his “sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground” (LK 23:45), we learn that his disciples fall asleep not once, but three times!
Like the disciples and the actors in Matthew’s Gospel, lack of awareness and distraction often prevent us from focusing on what is truly important. This is especially true amidst the ever-present din of technology. The latest urgent e-mail, text, or post demands to be answered right away, interfering with more meaningful aspects of our lives.
In Deep Work, author Cal Newport posits that in order to engage in truly meaningful work we need to remove the modern distractions that interfere with our ability to focus and think deeply. He muses whether we need to be entertained by “33 Dogs Winning at Everything,” and recommends quitting social media. He mentions the concept of an “internet Sabbath,” likening it to the Biblical Sabbath with the introduction of a period of quiet and reflection. He suggests that we apply the concept of an internet Sabbath on a daily basis to eliminate internet-based distractions in order to accomplish focused and meaningful work.
Although Newport’s book focuses on work, the deep, meditative thinking he describes reminds me of prayer. Prayer—our conversation with God—also requires removing outside distractions that interfere with the conversation. Deep prayer can help us be prepared for that “unexpected hour.”
Our culture is like a thief that prowls outside of our house, continually trying to break in and rob us of our vigilance and focus. Let us embrace the discipline to avoid the distractions that prevent us from remaining spiritually awake and prepared.