Erin Turner is a member of Restoration and currently getting her PhD in English Literature at SMU. Today she shares the importance of unplugging from life’s distractions and offers a few practical ways you can put this into practice.
I went camping last weekend (and practiced safe social distancing, of course). The campsite was nestled in among the trees beside a small lake. In the distance, gentle mountains rose above the lake. At night, the stars lit the sky in a wash of beauty, and when it rained during the day we got cozy and read good books. The air was cool and fresh, and there was absolutely no cell service.
This was the second time I’ve been camping this summer, and that forced disengagement with social media, the news, and the general chaos of 2020 is something I’ve come to treasure. It is hard enough to unplug in normal times, but these days, when every news update feels like it carries something important and concerning, it’s even more challenging to walk away, even for a day or two.
And yet, that is what I’d like to encourage you to do.
It may feel like an uncomfortable, or even a scary, thing to do, and it may require some creative thinking and self-control to accomplish, but it is so worth it.
Unplugging is so valuable right now precisely because it is such a chaotic time in the world. We cannot sustain that. And in the midst of all the bad news, it can be so easy to lose sight of what is still good in the world. Unplugging can help with that.
How you do this is up to you. Camping is great because it is something outside your normal routine, and it can be pretty easy to socially distance. I felt quite safe both times. But if you’ve never been, it might be too complicated. Still, I would encourage you to set aside at least two days of no-phone-or-internet use, in which you replace that focus on the internet with things that refresh your spirit. In particular, what I found most valuable was being able to spend uninterrupted time with people, and being able to immerse myself in the beauty and stillness of the natural world. So much of what we’re seeing right now is dark and ugly, and while it is important to confront those things, this is about time away from that.
You might do an afternoon of crafts with your kids, followed by an extended storytime. You might take longer walks than usual, and slow down to enjoy the unusually nice summer weather we’re having right now. Look closely at a tree leaf, or a butterfly, or your neighbor’s flower bed. Read a fun book, or some poetry. Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while and agree to not talk about politics during your conversation. Spend some extra time praying or reading the Bible. Work on a craft. Finish that puzzle you started in March. Lay on the couch and listen to your favorite album. Be deliberate about focusing on the beauty around you, whatever that means to you. We need this kind of relationship and this kind of exposure to beauty. It is the kind of thing that fills us, that lessens the burdens we feel, that, most importantly, reminds us of God’s grace and goodness.
While it may feel like doing this kind of restful and restorative work is unnecessary or even detrimental, I know that I, personally, have come out of my no-Internet weekends feeling much more at peace, more grounded and centered in the Lord, and better able to face what the week has to throw at me. It has also motivated me to figure out how to diminish my time online generally (although I haven’t done that yet).
And if you feel like a whole weekend is too much, start with an afternoon, or even a few hours! It all makes a difference.
Finally, I would encourage you to consider adding a Psalm or two or five to your week, whether that week includes an Internet break or not. The psalms contain so many reminders that in spite of challenges and trials, God is with us and rescues us. I have found them particularly comforting in this coronatide.
To get you started, here’s one I came across this week that I took comfort in:
7. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
8. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
9. For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.