I was surfing in the late afternoon sun at Avoca beach, when I noticed a storm to the south. Maybe I should have surfed into shore immediately, but I love storms. They showcase the real power of nature and the Creator. And this storm was a majestic sight—a massive line of dark angry clouds swallowing the sky.
I sat enthralled on my board behind the breakers as the storm advanced over the headland. I was sitting in the literal calm before the storm, content to watch the show as it unfurled.
That was until the ear-splitting explosion of lightning struck the water close to me; so close my hair stood on end. Awestruck and shocked I just sat, watching the sea bubble, boil and glow translucent green. Then another bolt hit the water nearby. I snapped out of my daze and sprang into action, paddling frantically for the safety of the shoreline.
I’m still thankful God protected me against the full force of nature that day. But nature is not the only provider of storms in my life. You see, I’m plugged into a 24/7 storm that I can’t seem to get away from. There are messages and media constantly vying for my attention. Emails pour in day and night, Facebook updates silently accumulate, phone calls from anywhere and everywhere, tweets, videos, news and advertising all grabbing my attention and whittling away my personal space. And it’s not just me.
We are now at a point where ‘digital overload’ is impacting our health and relationships. Families sit together in rooms, with each one absorbed in their own screen. Teenagers sit around tables, texting rather than talking. While the beauty of life passes outside our front door, we are engrossed in the unending stream of apps, games and infotainment. We are living in a digital trance.
What we need is a “digital sabbatical”. I first heard this term in 2002 just before the social media revolution hit the world. Since then the digital sabbatical movement has been gaining more and more popularity.
A digital sabbatical is a day a week during which people step away from technology and connect with each other.
US writer and life coach, Andrea Scher, writes in her Superhero Journal blog, “The traditional Sabbath is about setting down work, machines, cars, phones, etc, from sundown Friday night to sunset on Saturday night. It is a time and space that is carved our for family, for connection, for nature. It is a sacred space for stillness, for contemplation, for creativity. It’s a pause in the week and a powerful ritual. The modern version of this ritual is in the form of a digital sabbath. It is a space we create consciously, where we step away from our screens and our gadgetry.”
It seems that the world has found an answer to digital overload and ironically it’s been sitting in our backyard for generations. The Sabbath is providing real and practical solutions to people who have never even picked up a Bible! Andrea Scher continues, “Whenever I hear the words ‘digital sabbath’ my ears perk up. Yes! Carving out a space like that, a sanctuary of time that is about connection, real connection—to self, to nature, to each other—makes every cell in me say yes.”
Even though I have had the gift of the Sabbath my whole life, I struggle in the storm of constant digital connection. I wonder if I’m the only Adventist who finds it hard to put down those addictive screens—even on Sabbath?
Has the world stolen our thunder by providing a solution back to me that I had the whole time—a Sabbath, a digital Sabbath, or more precisely, a digital-free Sabbath?
Maybe it’s time that we abandon our digital gadgets on Sabbath and reconnect with each other; maybe it’s time to recognise that our real friends aren’t on glowing screens —they are the real people in our homes, our neighbourhoods and our churches; maybe it’s time for every Sabbath to become a digital sabbatical. Every cell in my body says “YES!”