“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”
In his homily moments after reading the above passage, the pastor at my church repeated the first few words – “The Spirit drove Jesus.” He then asked everyone what drives them – is it lust, anger, Instagram…or the Spirit?
For Lent, I’ve given up YouTube (except for music and, the other day, President George W. Bush’s first two 9/11 speeches) and reading Star Wars books. I’m replacing those activities by reading four substantive books and being more prayerful in my daily life.
The Spirit definitely drove me to do those things – because, too often, distraction has driven me to avoid praying enough on my own and with my wife, or to seek reruns of TV shows on YouTube instead of reflecting on a tough day or why I’m in a particular mood.
The priest’s admonishment came just two days after I suddenly remembered I had missed catching two shows on YouTube. My mind began racing to analyze when and how I could catch up – and then I remembered I had given up YouTube.
The sudden racing of my mind to catch two shows that are, at best, adequate, was disturbing.
The admonishment also came less than an hour after I had seen a longtime friend with whom I’ve lost touch – and instead of continuing to pray in the pew, I raced out the door to catch up with him. We had a good chat, but I noticed that I was, once again, prioritizing the short-term emotional high (talking to my friend for a few minutes) over the harder good (praying for any extended period of time).
I noticed, yet I still went. As the priest noted, so many Christians do what we know we should not – whether it’s being judgmental, looking at pornography, or spending too much time on Facebook. I’m definitely guilty of the latter, which I know has taken me away from mental rest, early bedtimes, and necessary reflections on the goings-on of my life.
And it’s being judgmental into which I slip so easily, justifying criticizing someone else’s driving even as I talk on my phone in rush hour traffic.
Like many people, I often take advantage of any excuse to spend less time with God – there is often little immediate return on the investment, and it’s hard to do! As a new husband, I frequently am thinking about praying with my wife as we spend time together. It is a very good thing that we are together…but it is not the best thing.
Thus, I conclude that it is the spirit of distraction that guides me to cut short prayer, avoid it entirely at times, and sends me onto Facebook and YouTube. There is necessary time off from work, and there is distraction. Thankfully, the Spirit is forcing me to recognize the former in my life.