Jan Johnson

Wisbit - April 2016

A Technology Fast

In one of the grad courses I teach at Hope International University, my students not only study certain spiritual disciplines but also practice them. They understand that the purpose of the practices is to help them connect with God. The reflection papers they write on their experiences fascinate me.

Libby decided to fast from technology. “The first thing I noticed was that I had not been awake for more than three minutes and I already wanted to check my phone. As soon as that happened, I immediately got on my hands and knees and prayed.

“I still had to go to work, but I made it so I did not have to do anything that involved technology. I saw that I rely on technology for many things. Someone will ask me a question and if I do not know the answer, I Google it. If I need an idea for an event, I just Google that too. All day I could not help but wonder how I got to this point. When had I stopped going to God for all my questions and instead started just asking Google? When these questions and many more started flooding my mind, I fell to my knees on the middle of my floor at work. I did not pray for God to take away all of the distractions, but instead I prayed that God would take away my constant desire to use technology for everything. I also had to learn to improvise. I was able to come up with unique ways to do different aspects of my job. I wrote cards to kids who were missing on Sunday instead of sending out emails and I visited their homes.

“During this experience, I felt like I connected the most with God when I got out of the house and out of the office and sat outside. It felt as though it was just God and me. I felt refreshed. For the first time that day, I did not feel that I had to know what was going on in the Facebook or Instagram world or even scroll through endless DIY projects on Pinterest. I felt like I was at peace.”

Another student, Steve (also a pastor), reported that he felt led by God to fast from using the internet on his phone and laptop from sunrise to sunset. Why? “I use chasing rabbit trails on the internet as a way to distract myself and avoid dealing with things that I really should be dealing with. I also use it to fill down time when there are many more productive uses for that time, such as reading, writing, and connecting with people. Also, reading the news (which I usually do) is terrible for my spirit. The news sites I use are sensationalized and feature misleading headlines to get readers to click on their stories in order to be able to charge advertisers more. Skimming these headlines several times a day, even without reading the stories themselves, is depressing and anxiety inducing.

“From the moment I awoke that morning, I prayed instead of reaching for my phone. I felt close to God. It was challenging at first because it is such an addiction for me. In fact, I actually felt some of the same physical effects that I have on the few occasions that I have detoxed from caffeine, primarily a spacey feeling and a little anxiety and edginessIt might have been all in my mind or it might have actually been a result of “detoxing” from an addiction. By mid-morning I was living in a state of expectation as I sensed that God was with me.

“Because of time constraints, I combined the Fasting Exercise and the Mini-Retreat on the same day. I had set aside three hours for God and God met me and showed me how I was using the internet to distract from a lot of hard things that I needed to face in my life. I can honestly say that it has been a long time since I felt this connected to God. When I walked into the house that evening my wife said that she could tell that I had been with God. She said that I was radiant and compared it to the mountaintop experience of Moses.”

It’s amazing how the simple act of laying aside a phone and laptop opens up space - wide open unexpected space - to connect with and hear from God.

    Grace and peace,
    Jan Johnson



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