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Soul 30 – Learning to live without distraction

Soul 30 – Learning to live without distraction

I would be lying if I claimed to be at peace with my days. My week may be full of great events and opportunities, but I often find that something is still lacking. Many days, I catch myself wasting every moment that wasn’t dedicated to a particular event from the start. My office is littered with unread books, my mind is filled with unwritten thoughts, and my soul is clogged by unspoken prayers. Many times, my career is affected and my work ethic begins to wane. My calendar appointments with the Church become lone islands of nourishment in a sea of apostate lethargy. On my good days, wonder why it’s so hard to live the life that I want to live. On my bad days, I don’t even have the wherewithal to even ask the question.

This past Sunday, I woke up with a very clear conviction in my heart. If I want to overcome my inherent laziness, I need to change the things I am feeding my soul. Of course, this idea wasn’t merely my own. Some of our close friends have recently completed the Whole30 diet. Over the past four weeks, we have been listening to their experiences as they learned to live without some of the foods that they have consumed for their entire lives. The Whole30 diet is unique because it was designed to be temporary. Right now, these friends are re-introducing foods to their bodies one-by-one to see what is good for them and what is bad for them. I have decided to apply the same principles to the things that I am feeding my heart and soul.

The Problem

If you want to get shunned and ignored in most churches today, all you have to do is suggest that perhaps Christians shouldn’t engage in certain aspects of our culture. I understand, the Bible doesn’t directly tell us how we should interact with movies, sports, social media, video games, etc. And I don’t believe any of these categories are inherently evil or should be thrown out by default. But when I read the Bible (the Psalms and Paul’s epistles in particular, just read Psalm 119), I see a love for and dependence on God’s word which I just can’t claim for myself today. It only seems logical that the way I spend my time might affect my spiritual appetite.

The man I am today is much less than the man I aspire to be. I know from my past that my “down time” often becomes a distraction and a source of busyness. I must set aside my preconceived notions and give my pastimes a fair trial. Jesus clearly asked me to deny myself if I seek to follow Him (see Matthew 16:24). I will not lie to myself; if something is holding me back, I first need to know about it and then I need to do something about it.

The Challenge

I’m calling my challenge “Soul 30” because I’m a dufus and I thought it sounded catchy. Naming aside, this is one of the best ideas which has entered my head in a long time. (Likely because it didn’t enter by my own accord.) Everything I have written on this blog so far was meant to encourage. But today, may I step out and offer a challenge? I want you to join me in this endeavor. Please ask yourself, “could this Soul 30 challenge change the way I live my life?” For many of us, I believe the answer to be “Yes.”

It’s okay to be skeptical. I have tried “Facebook fasts” before, and they almost never work. We are very capable of exchanging one distraction for another. I recently heard someone say that he was meaning to watch less Netflix so he could play more video games. I hope to accomplish much more than that through this month. Only by eliminating all distractions will I be able to understand how each affects me. There is no halfway.

The Details

For this month, I am using a whitelist approach to my free time. (A whitelist, in contrast to a blacklist, is a collection of good things which should be allowed to supersede a general rule.) Instead of listing all of the things I should not be doing, I want to focus on the positive. Where can I invest my time? Here are all of the things I will continue to do this month. For anyone who is willing to join me, feel free to modify the list to suit your needs.

  • Work – My career – and everything I am required to do/research, etc. will remain unaffected.
  • Friend/Family/Church commitments – My focus is on my personal time, so I am not going to reduce the number of commitments I have.
  • Prayer – Without this, the whole challenge is meaningless.
  • Reading the Bible and encouraging books
  • Journaling, writing, (this blog)
  • Internet when I have a specific purpose in mind – Paying bills, planning dates, etc. Does not include mindless browsing or online window shopping.
  • Uplifting music – I will listen to music while working, but I will turn it off when I can to provide opportunities to listen for God’s voice.
  • Texting and calling people
  • Budgeting (max 3 times per week) – I like to look at my money more often than I need to. That’s not a good use of time, but I will check in every now and then in case something goes sour.
  • Social Media (Less than 1/2 hour per day) – For me, social media is a small distraction, but is also a necessary way to keep up with certain people.
  • Time spent with friends/family, etc.

The list I provided above may seem awfully sparse. But boredom is not an absence of things to do. I often go downstairs, look inside a full fridge, and then declare that there is nothing to eat in the house. My problem is I have taught myself to crave something which I cannot have at the moment. I fully expect to find myself staring at the wall a few times during the first week. But I hope to see my tastes change in time as I begin to re-train my soul to crave the things of God.

A Word of Warning

My heart behind the Soul 30 is to teach myself (and others) to control distractions and to seek God first. To be fair, this isn’t a strictly Christian activity. You could eliminate distractions for a month in order to become a better businessperson, a better parent, or a stronger athlete. But I focused my list on Christian activities for a very specific reason. God created each of us with a unique eternal purpose in mind. Focusing on the things of this world and cutting out spiritual discipline is like taking a road trip and throwing the GPS out the window. Knowing where you want to go and knowing how to get there are two very different things. The only way to reach our dreams without destroying our souls in the process is to continually lean on God.

If you are reading this and you don’t know Jesus Christ personally, may I suggest that this challenge is not for you? You might unlock the ability sell yourself more wholeheartedly to some specific passion, person, or career. But what happens when that thing inevitably lets you down? You will lose your identity, your very self. God came down to Earth and suffered on our behalf so we don’t have to find our identities in incomplete things. He wants us to give ourselves wholly to Him so He can show us who He designed us to be. We will never discover ourselves until we begin to place our lives in His hands. If we settle for anything less, then we are merely substituting one distraction for another.

In Conclusion

If you have resonated with anything I have shared above, please consider joining me in this endeavor. There is a great need in our nation today for men and women who are ready to wholeheartedly give their lives to Christ. This challenge is not, in itself, going to change the world. But we have much more to gain than we have to lose if we dare to set aside lesser things in the pursuit of the greater. Together, let’s “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:2)”

If I have convinced you to try this Soul 30 challenge, I would love to hear about it so I can be praying for you. If not, please pray for me when you think of it. I expect the road ahead to be rough in places, but I know that it is well worth the effort. Thank you for taking the time to hear my thoughts and to share in my journey.

P.S.

In the past week as I have worked on this blog post and have shared my story with the church, you have continued to encourage me. I now know that this challenge is merely my way of answering the call that millions of Christians have already answered: the call to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Christ. (Luke 9:23) To everyone who has shared your stories with me this week, thank you. I thank God that this road I am on, though difficult at times, doesn’t have to be lonely. I have learned that fasting can result in joy more often than sorrow, and I have been strengthened and encouraged at every turn.

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