Getting Away from the Noise

Written by Nathaniel Miller

Campers are constantly bombarded by all the things the world offers. Think of a camper’s average day as a fair or carnival. Everywhere they look something is vying for their attention, time, energy, money, and resources. This picture is not an argument against fairs; I greatly missed the North Carolina State Fair this past year.  But when there are so many voices, music, and venues filling the space, it all comes across as noise.  As fun as fairs can be, it would be quite unhealthy to spend every day at one.  In some ways, this picture is what campers’ lives are like in the digital age. Most have access to a TV, a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, or a mix of them every day.  They are being filled with the noise of the world.  At New Life Camp, we like to say that these grounds are an opportunity to get away from the noise.

My guess is I’m preaching to the choir here; we all think campers spend too much time in front of their screens. And that was before 2020.  Whether you’re running a summer camp, released-time classes, retreats, a sports league, or any other of your camp ministries, you do your best to create an environment free from the noise for your campers. Why do we do this? Because we want them to experience the fullness of God in Jesus Christ.  But before we approach this issue with them, we might want to look in the mirror. Are we spending every day at the fair?  Are we obsessed with the noise?  Are we the ones who need to be set free from our screens?

This past year, I read a book called 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke. It isn’t merely a good book on this topic, it is one of the best books I have ever read.  For starters, he tells us addiction and obsession with screens aren’t a children’s problem or even a millennial’s problem.  It’s a human problem.  Tony writes:

“We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives, which means you will be tempted to check your phone three times before you finish this chapter.”

Tony surveyed 8,000 Christians about social media routines:

“More than half of the respondents (54 percent) admitted to checking a smartphone within minutes of waking.  When asked whether they were more likely to check email and social media before or after spiritual disciplines on a typical morning, 73 percent said before.”

I’m guessing those stats make many of you feel guilty like I feel.  Along with this, I recently heard one of my favorite songwriters, Josh Garrels, share on a podcast that he once was in the 73 percent.  One day, he felt convicted by the Spirit with this thought as he grabbed his phone in the morning: “You are poisoning the roots.”  If we are to be people who are trees planted by the living water of God’s word, as Psalm 1 says, choosing to spend time in the rivers of our phones instead can indeed poison the roots. We are, as C. S. Lewis once wrote, “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  Jesus is offering us a holiday at the sea that He made. How frequently I decide to pick up a smartphone for something lesser than the King of the universe!  

But Tony doesn’t just expose the problem. He offers the solution:

“The answer to our hyperkinetic digital world of diversions is the soul-calming sedative of Christ’s splendor, beheld with the mind and enjoyed by the soul. The beauty of Christ calms us and roots our deepest longings in eternal hopes that are far beyond what our smartphones can ever hope to deliver.”

We desperately need Jesus.  When we think of Him, we often think of our sin.  Maybe that’s why we reach for the phone instead. The darkness doesn’t like to be exposed. But when we spend time thinking about Him, reading His word, talking with Him, spending time with other believers, we find the real joy and longings of our hearts. We bring that sin to Him in confession and repentance, finding healing and forgiveness. We find His grace more precious, His compassion more incredible.

While you plan your ministry for today and the days ahead, as you seek to create environments that are free from the noise of screens, carve out space in your life to put the phone down and pursue Jesus instead. It will require planning and discipline.  But it’s well worth gazing at the splendor of Jesus, His Gospel, and His Kingdom.

 

Written by Nathaniel Miller, serving as Director of LEARN Home School and IT at

New Life Camp. To learn more about New Life Camp’s LEARN or Summer Camp Programs click https://www.newlifecamp.com

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