Zoomed Out: Freedom from Consuming All the Resources During Quarantine

by R. D. McClenagan April 29, 2020

I'm Zoomed out. Not just of Zoom per se but of all the content out there begging me to unlock its power to change me and reset me and make me the best quarantine version of myself. I admit I was all about this during the beginning of the lockdown. I was ready to read books like never before and maybe even take a Masterclass in filmmaking by Martin Scorsese. I was going to dominate this quarantine! Now, all this content I was hoping to engage in has felt more like what C.S. Lewis called "the kingdom of noise," and the tyranny of countless invitations to do this or become that exhausts me.

There is a deeper reason that we are feeling more exhausted by the online onslaught of options as well. Psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompon says, “After all the online conference video calls, we are far more tired than usual. And as it turns out, there is a good reason for this. Human beings use our bodies, vis-à-vis our actual words, to communicate upwards to 85-90% of everything we ‘say.’ These nonverbal cues—eye contact, tone of voice, facial expression, body language, gestures, timing, and intensity of responses—are the body’s portion of what it means to ‘be’ with others and ourselves—to communicate what we are experiencing. Our bodies are working independently of our conscious, thinking brain, enabling us to love and be loved, to be known and to know, even without the use of words. And this is why we are so much more tired at the end of the day.”[1] We are not meant to communicate and interact exclusively online and the longer that we are engaged in digital connection the more exhausted we become. The continual pumping of content into this space clamoring for our attention and devotion only exhausts us more.

If there is something that the church in the West loves, it is content. The more content the better! Add a global pandemic with isolated people and you have a recipe for more content than you know what to do with. I can fully admit that I, as a pastor, can also contribute to the problem. I have done so over the past month! Mea culpa![2]

There are countlessly increasing opinion pieces, blog posts, podcasts (me again), live-streaming services (I've been on those . . . oh dear), video Bible studies, audio Bible studies, Batman-themed Bible studies, Zoom meetings, and many others resources meant to encourage and challenge followers of Christ to not "waste our quarantine" or to "redeem our quarantine." I think a great majority of these resources are fantastic and can be very beneficial for us in this time, but they can also lead us to exhaustion from all the options—at least I feel that way. And I love content! I do! But I have become wearied by all the information out there clamoring for my attention, especially the spiritually-weighted content, I must confess.

So all I want to add to the noise is the freedom to turn it all down. To zoom out from it all.

I want to give you the freedom to seek Christ and his kingdom first in this time—the freedom to be Mary in an online Martha world (Luke 10:38-42). There are many tasks to accomplish and there are many resources out there to accomplish them, but the most important task is to set your heart unto the Lord in this time. You don't have to make your life group the most dynamic it has ever been, or figure out how to live generously like never before by the time stay-at-home orders are fully lifted, or feel the pressure to continue to project a greater spirituality to online masses than you actually have in your soul.

The measure of how you are doing as a Christian is not found by measuring how much you are doing for Christ but by measuring the quality of life in your soul. You need to measure whether you’re finding peace and contentment in the midst of everything flying around. The metric for measuring the quality of life in your soul is found in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the spirit. Are you experiencing the fruit of the spirit?

The truth is that the quality of life in your soul is likely all over the map right now, but the way to cultivate a sense of stability and endurance in the midst of all this is to seek Christ first and to give yourself to him in prayer. Prayer allows us to experience communion with him through our union with him. That's the secret sauce. Well, not really a secret or a sauce for the matter, but it's a formula as old as time. You are welcome to add anything more to that formula that inspires you or makes your soul come alive, but you don't have to!

Be present to the presence of God and what he is speaking into your life in this specific season. There are lessons to learn in this time if we will have ears to hear.

I have no doubt that he is drawing you and many others back to him through this experience. In this moment when the Lord has turned down the volume of so many distractions in the world, how tragic would it be to fill the void of silence not with contemplation, healthy boredom, and seeking God in his word and prayer and instead fill it with the noise of Christian busyness and frantic activity—much less Netflix or endless iPhone scrolling? (True confession, I've done both many times while in quarantine, so I get it.)

Archbishop William Temple wisely said, "Your religion is what you do with your solitude."[3] When you have nothing to think about . . . what do you think about? That's your god.

We replace the noise over here for the noise over there and, in doing so, miss out on what God is longing to do in our souls at this present moment.

King David asks one thing of the Lord, and his words are instructive for what our one thing to ask should be as well. He writes, “One thing I have asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

One thing to seek after. One thing to gaze upon. One thing of which to inquire more deeply.

The beauty of the Lord. There many good things to seek after, but his beauty is the best of them all.

I am tired of this quarantine. Tired of the lockdown. Tired of endless Zoom meetings. Tired of being tired. All of us are walking through this time in different ways with different pressure points and different coping mechanisms. There may be some good days, some okay days, and some days that nearly break you. I have simple yet good news for weary hearts.

There's new mercy today, tomorrow, and every day to follow. So take each day as it comes. Zoom out from your world and into a larger map view of what God is doing; zoom down into the Word and spend time there. Spend time in real, honest, wrestling prayer. Reach out to someone else and send a text of encouragement or gratefulness to them. We are in this together and so is our God. Let's not miss him.

Zoom Out,

Seek first.

Rest in daily mercy.

Notes

  1. ^ Curt Thompson, “A Body of Work” Curt Thompson MD, April 15, 2020. https://curtthompsonmd.com/a-body-of-work/
  2. ^ Latin phrase meaning “through my fault.”
  3. ^ Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, London, Penguin Books, 2011