A few years ago, when I was a Forge student, we didn’t have easy access to internet or TV. In fact, we’d committed together as a group that we wouldn’t watch TV or movies at all. We adopted the habit of “bouncing our eyes,” when in the same room as a television, quickly moving our eyes away from the screen and keeping mindful to not get distracted by whatever was playing. Months after we’d graduated the program, I still caught myself involuntarily avoiding TV screens. Eventually, the habit wore off once media consumption became a regular pattern and routine in my life.
Do you want to now what’s strange? In the last two months, I’ve started “bouncing my eyes” from TV again. Not by choice. Something in my mind has all of the sudden flipped a switch and gone back into “Forge-mode.” Last week, I caught myself quickly adverting my eyes when I glanced at a TV in a restaurant. Um… hello? I can watch all the TV I want now, and it was now YEARS ago that I was in the habit of glancing away. What is going on?
I figured it out, though. The trigger is empty space. Lately, my lifestyle has been a lot less noisy. You see, our newlywed lifestyle doesn’t include internet or TV yet and we’re left with a lot of space and a lot less noise.
I didn’t feel the weight of that space, though, until Jesse left for his first trip out of town for work. I’ve lived with roommates or family members my entire life. In most recent years, I’ve lived with up to EIGHT girls sharing an apartment. A life filled with people has been my norm. But now… its different. There’s a lot more margin for space. When my husband comes home later from work than usual or has worship team practice, or goes on a week-long trip, I don’t have three other roommates to distract me. Instead, there’s space.
I wish I could tell you that I’m really great at using the space for deep, spiritual reflection and contemplation about how the Lord is sufficient, but that would be far from the truth. Instead, last time Jesse left, I filled my evenings with so much activity that by the time it reached Thursday, I was absolutely exhausted from staying so busy and really just wanted to crash at home. But home was way too intimidating. It’s not that I was afraid to be in house by myself (EXCEPT for the night when BEAVERS came and ate the pumpkins off my porch. #countrylife). I was afraid of the space.
In this new space I’m beginning to see how full and distracted I’ve crafted my life to be.
Ginger wrote about “Limiting Distractions,” the other day and she really put into words everything I’ve been mulling over. I’ve reached pro-status at distracting myself, and didn’t even realize it. From the time at a stoplight waiting for the light to turn green, to the few moments while I wait for my work computer to boot up, I can fill every bit of space in my day with something distracting. But what happens when we don’t have cell service, internet or TV to fill the emptiness? What’s left?
Jess and I have been given the gift of space, at least in regards to our media consumption. The scary question I have to tackle is, when Jesse isn’t here, what does my time look like? If I don’t fill up my time and stay distracted, where does my heart and mind land?
What would empty space look like for you? If you didn’t have your phone, TV or internet and were given four free hours a day, for six days, would it scare you or empower you?
I’m looking forward to exploring this new space. It might be quieter and more revealing, but I’m sure there will be a lot to learn.