"I cannot take one more horrible headline or I'm going to have to dig a hole (in an obscure corner of a remote land) and curl up in the fetal position (with my children in the center)". This is a frequent-guest thought in my head and oft times I feel more victim to it than controller of it. My pride whispers warnings of lack of compassion or understanding if I chose not to partake of every headline or plea for prayer that is served up. My ego accuses my mind of being small and up to it's neck in sand. In a world where being informed is a sign of strength, no one wants to be looked at as being too weak to handle the hard stuff. Well, at least I don't.
Yet, with increasing bouts of anxiety and snappiness towards my small children when I'm trying to balance the weight of the world while stirring spaghetti and signing reading logs, I've been questioning whether the brain was designed to take in the massive amounts of immediate and detailed information at it's disposal. While it is mostly true "there is nothing new under the sun", the reality is we are in a brand-spankin' new frontier with information sharing. The effects of its enormity are real and can be mentally, emotionally and even physically debilitating.
In "Switch On Your Brain", the fascinating and thought-renovating book by the brilliant Dr. Caroline Leaf, she refers to "milkshake-multitasking", which is when "we shift our attention rapidly from task to task, resulting in two bad things: 1.) We don't devote as much focused attention as we should to a specific activity, task, or piece of information and 2). we sacrifice the quality of our attention." By doing this we become weaker, not stronger. We lessen our ability to concentrate on the people and situations we CAN impact (and thus our effectiveness). She also writes:
"Milkshake-multitasking decreases our attention, making us increasingly less able to focus our thought habits. This opens us up to shallow and weak judgements and decision and results in passive mindlessness. Deep, intellectual though, however, results in interactive mindlessness - the "soul harmony" presented in Colossians 3:15 (AMP). This requires engaging passionately with the world. We need to increase our awareness of our thoughts and take the time to understand and reflect on them"
In other words, we do ourselves-and our world-a favor when we take time to make space for what we know, what God puts on our hearts and what He wants us to do with that knowing. Filing up my mind with more information does not make me stronger. It makes me mentally crippled. There needs to be a better way.
Which brings me to the word LINK.
The word used to most often be associated with fences and chains. It then became a popular symbol of synergy, a best practice among teams of various sorts, and you never wanted to be described as a weak one. Most recently, "link" is most often referred to as a small cluster of words one clicks with a finger to a touchscreen in order to receive the details behind them. These links in and of themselves are not a dangerous thing and in fact can be very helpful when on a specific journey of learning. Yet when it comes to the daily (dark) news, I have created a new rule of them for myself and it involves these two simple steps.
1. STOP before clicking a link.
I have seen the headline, I know that it has happened. I am informed.
Is it necessary for me all the gory details? Will the space they take up in my head and heart be helpful to the situation and to my ability to carry out my role as present, loving person to the people in my immediate world?
2. Linking Arms.
There are needs that God uniquely sets upon the hearts of his sons and daughters in form of passion. As my friend Heather said, "Hope takes us to dark places" and indeed, it often does. I know of an amazing woman who works tirelessly on behalf of vulnerable sisters in Cambodia. There are my close friends who devote their lives to helping individuals around the world find dignity and worth in starting up businesses that provide shelter and food to their families and communities. They asked for and were given their passion. They focus on it, immerse themselves in the dark places and do all they can within that realm to bring light. They take in information that is useful in understanding and aiding those individuals they can actually link arms with in this life. When faced with thousands of links that take me to thousands of harsh details of horrible stories around the world, I am learning to let many go and asking God to show me what I need to know. I am giving my mind space to pick up on that which God empower me to know more. Otherwise, I am barely able to sort through the tragedies of the world, too paralyzed to move in any direction, missing out perhaps on the first step towards doing what I CAN do to link arms with others to ease the suffering in a small corner.
There is no more pressing need in my life right now than to take thoughts captive, to be disciplined and watchful and to be purposeful in giving God my mental space to move freely about in.
Being a drive-by news junkie or click-a-link happy is allowing the hinges to the door of my mind to be overworked, resulting in my spirit being overwhelmed and my purpose under-utilized. We are not victim to what we can control. We can turn off the news, we can look at a sensational news headline and say to it "No thank you, I already know enough and now I must now go link myself to the people and the passion God has set on my path".
Moment by moment I have a choice in choosing what (or who) I link up to. May God give me wisdom to take pause and choose well.