Why Continuous Partial Attention Doesn’t Work When It Comes to Jesus
Oct 2, 2017 2038
Most of us have experienced getting a notification on our phone while we’re talking to someone. Did you sneak a look at your phone to see what it was? Or even worse, are you guilty of texting or Facebooking on your phone while being with someone else? The number of accidents to people who are trying to be on their phones and driving, or even walking, is staggering.
However, these things are just small symptoms of a much larger problem, which is called Continuous Partial Attention. We are so heavily bombarded with information and stimuli these days, that we hardly give continuous full attention to anything. Instead, we try to do everything at once, giving the various people or tasks that require our focus, just a portion of our attention, which is spread thing over other tasks as well. In fact, that little phone in your hand works very much like a drug, calling your attention it time and time again.
Digital technology brings us many benefits. There’s no question that it is getting “smarter” and making many aspects of our lives easier. However, psychologists are starting to observe the damage that is being done to many aspects of our lives. Our concentration spans are becoming shorter and shorter, so that we can only digest information in little bite-sized digital chunks. We’re losing our ability to memorise, since digital technology serves as external memory devices for us. Along with that, the ability to learn and innovate is also being lost, because these activities require sustained attention, and the forming of connections deep in the memories within our brains.
The more dangerous effects of Continuous Partial Attention, however, are on relationships. The formation of authentic and healthy relationships that last requires effort, time, and careful attention. As much as technology can enhance communication across the world, it often only causes to relationships within the family and between partners. When people prefer to engage with a phone than with a loved one face-to-face, there’s something seriously wrong.
Let’s think about our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, because after all, he’s a person too, and our relationship with him should be the closest of all. Where once people were happy enough to sit and listen to a sermon for an hour (or more!), now anything over 20 minutes is considered excessive. And if that’s any indication of the time that people spend one-on-one with the Lord in prayer, study, and meditation on his Word, then there should be real cause for concern.
The book of Hebrews tells us that the secret of a successful Christian life is to be:
Fixing our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2).
The Greek word used here literally means to take our eyes off everything else and to “stare” at something else. When it comes to our faith, Continual Partial Attention just won’t cut it.
We need to set aside time every day, away from our phones and all other distractions, to just be with God. I know that your Bible might be on your phone, but you get the picture, right? Everything else around you screams for your attention with screaming 30-second sound-bites, that’s not how we find God, and develop in our relationship with him. So, this takes discipline, but it’s so worthwhile!
Christ has promised to always be with us, and he wants us to always be with him.
In addition to setting ourselves aside for God on a regular basis, we should also develop the practice of keeping God foremost in our thoughts throughout the day. We must develop the “practice of the presence of God” as Brother Lawrence called it. We do this by recognising that God is in every activity that we are engaged in throughout our day. As we do this, we learn to keep him always in our thoughts, whatever it is that we might be doing. Instead of Continuous Partial Attention, we give Jesus our Continuous Complete Attention. Christ has promised to always be with us, and he wants us to always be with him.
These things are very counter-cultural. They go against how our society tells us that we are to think, act, and live. But what if your joy and peace depends on it? It does. But not only that. The clamour for your attention is, in the end, a battle for your soul. Your eternal destiny depends on where you give your attention to.
At the cross, in spite of his own situation, Christ gave his Continuous and Complete attention to you and your salvation (Luke 23:34.) Doesn’t he deserve the same from you?
– Eliezer Gonzalez