I know that not all of you are as digitally connected as I am; I also know that many of you are much more linked through your devices than I ever will be. I spend most of my digital time at my desk top computer - easily three to four hours a day. My cell phone is at my side all the time, but I tend to use it mostly as a phone, occasionally as a camera, infrequently for texting and seldom for the dozens of other uses it is capable of. I also bought an iPad back in 2015 and I rarely use it...it just takes up space on my desk.
A few months ago, there was an article in a magazine about making a digital sabbath. The author was someone who was never disconnected from the world wide web. She did not like the fact that she was now in the habit of checking her smart phone dozens of times an hour; she was spending so much time "staying in touch" that it was forcing a different pace to her life. And, she noticed that all of the time she spent on her gadgets was actually reducing the quality of the personal relationships that she treasured. She felt that she was losing her ability to distinguish between what was important (deserving of time) and what wasn't a high priority. Technology was taking over her life.
When I read that story, my reaction was "Me too!" Last weekend, I decided to do something about it. At 8 pm Saturday night, I shut off my computer - totally and completely. Not just on sleep mode, but actually off. I also took my smart phone and disabled anything except the phone function. I did not use my computer, my phone or my iPad until 8 am on Monday morning. I did not watch TV. I did not listen to the radio. I took a digital sabbath, except for the monitor at church.
The sabbath is deeply rooted in our past; it was common, only a couple of generations ago, for most of us to take a day out of our week and not work: rest, play, enjoyment and renewal...but no paid work. Our ancestors actually fought hard not to have to work seven days a week; it was a hard-won battle. My digital sabbatical had that same focus.
How did I put in my time? Saturday evening, I sat out on the front deck and I relaxed, read a book, watched and listened to the birds. I went to bed when it got dark and read a bit more before falling asleep. Sunday morning after breakfast, I harvested some beans at the church garden before attending worship. After church and lunch, I read some more; I relaxed on the porch and even dozed off for a bit. I chatted with Thom and Marnie, went swimming, and chatted with the neighbours and their kids. I wrote some cards and letters to friends. I went to bed when it got dark and read until I fell asleep.
Monday morning, I felt I'd had a break, I felt refreshed, like I'd been living at a different pace. It reminded me of the start of summer holidays when I was a child. As I turned on my computer, I felt grateful, rather than resentful, for what technology had to offer. I did not feel dread at the number of emails or texts that I might face after 36 hours of being disconnected. There would be time for all of that.
Our ancestors were grateful for a day of rest; I've no doubt their sabbath day was not all leisure, but I'm pretty certain it was time to restore the heart, body and soul.
My digital sabbath felt so good, I'm going to do it again.
May we all live in the wonderful mystery of the Spirit.