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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

The Digital Trap: And why God is calling us out of our sedentary selves

Everything I’ve needed to know I’ve learned from a children’s Bible. Well, almost. * * * * *

Yesterday, I got an email from Redbud Writers’ Guild, extending to me a warm welcome into their amazing community of women writers. By their own description, they are a group of women choosing “to create and not merely consume – who want to make the world a better place by adding our collective voices with change and for good.”

This distinction between creation and consumption was precisely what struck me yesterday as I was reading the Jesus Storybook Bible with our four-year-old twins over breakfast. The section, which describes the creation of the world, begins like this:

“In the beginning, there was nothing.

Nothing to hear. Nothing to feel. Nothing to see.

Only emptiness. And darkness. And . . . nothing but nothing.

But God was there. And God had a wonderful Plan.

‘I’ll take this emptiness,’ God said, ‘and I’ll fill it up! Out of the darkness I’m going to make light! And out of the nothing, I’m going to make . . . EVERYTHING!’”

There’s no ignoring that we live in a hyper-consumer culture. Our billboards blink the invitation to buy and spend. Our social media force upon us the water hose of instant information. Our self-tethering to technology exerts enormous influence over us, visible and invisible, and I’m not one to say that it is all bad. But one of the greatest dangers, however, is the passivity we imbibe in the process. Our technology has the potential to move us further from the action of God that we see at the very beginning of time. Our technology, should we use it only to consume, can distance us from the Creator at His canvas, the Artist who calls the world into being from the vast emptiness of space.

Our God creates, and made in His image, we, too, are called to create.

My friend and I talk of this yesterday as she describes the new discipleship program that our church is beginning to launch. It will be fantastic, I am sure, because our leaders are rooted in their spiritual practices and authentic in their public leadership. But no matter how good the program and its leaders actually are, the question remains of whether or not it can meet the demands and expectations of its participants.

The naked truth is: it might not. And it might not because of what technology (and its forced consumerism) may be doing to us. Whether we know it our not, our digitized life is instinctually orienting us toward speed and efficiency and information, none of which have any real power in spiritual transformation. What’s more, from all of our points of digital connection, we might well be leaking the inner will to participate in the world and our own spiritual growth, wishing instead that inner change and global redemption were as easily as clicking a button.

Consumers makes terrible Christians.

There is more to spiritual growth and global redemption than becoming a virtual fan or friend. Spiritual transformation is the slow work of metamorphosis, a lifetime of cocooning, and it depends upon inefficient practices like silence, solitude, and smallness. Spiritual transformation invites us into the work of our heart’s renovation, which is not to be accomplished by simply digesting new information.  Global change requires the “deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world,” and that we “yearn and strive to do something about it,” (When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert). All of this indicates that spiritual and global change will require our active participation, our movement beyond the sedentary self, which our technologies nonetheless insist upon shaping and molding.

These are reasons enough to maintain a healthy wariness toward our technology: our digital connectedness can do a lot for us (I’m grateful to now belong to a virtual community of women flung across North America who, like I, desire to write, write well, and honor the name of Jesus), but for the ways it moves us into the role of consumer rather than creator, for the ways it stokes our appetite for speed, efficiency and information, for the ways it drains our momentum to speak, to act, and to create, we must resist the power of the digital trap.

“I’ll take this emptiness, and I’ll fill it up!”

I wonder what empty canvas each of us might fill today, for the sake of the truth and beauty of Christ.