From Paper To Pixel To Paper
Five years ago, I made the switch. My devotional time went all digital. I put my weathered Bible on the shelf with all its pen marks and notes scribbled on the side. I replaced my whole library with one simple device that could fit in my pocket. It contained thousands of commentaries, dictionaries, all my notes from seminary and my favorite sermons. My note taking was more thorough and my ability to search for things was better than ever. For a season, my phone greatly increased my Quiet Times. But eventually, though my head was full with biblical truth, my heart was starving for divine connection.
Over the first months of the year, despite having a regular devotional time, they seemed hollow. I struggled to engage both my mind and my heart. I found my mind wandering with no desire to return to reading or prayer. I would jump back and forth between the Bible app, ESPN, Gmail, and text messages. The only motivation to finish a chapter was to check the box on my reading plan. My digital devotions had moved from a benefit to a hindrance. Knowing I needed to make a change, three months ago I picked back up the hard copy again and discarded the apps.
The Real Problem
Despite what the title may lead you to believe, the problem was not technology. The problem was first and foremost with me and secondly, how I chose to use technology. I am a firm believer that technology is neither good nor bad. Technology doesn’t contain moral problems, it only highlights the problems that people already have. Tony Reinke said it well, “Technology makes life easier, but immaturity makes technology self-destructive (12 Ways You Phone Is Changing You, p. 192).” My disconnected, going through the motions attitude was not a product of technology, but of my immaturity. And when I realized my lack of self-discipline and control, I decided that I needed to reevaluate my relationship with technology.
Why I Love Technology, But Needed To Leave
Research has shown that the retention of digital readers is significantly lower than those who read hard copies. The reason for this had nothing to do with the medium itself, but instead with the self-discipline and control of the reader. Digital readers skimming habits are a product of reading 240 character tweets, instagram captions, and 3-5 minute blogs and articles.
When we read digitally, our reading habits are consistent regardless of the content. This became a problem for me as I tried to read the deepest book of all time with the same reading habits I used to scroll through Facebook. I began reading my Bible much like you are probably reading this blog post. I would read quickly and look for the major points. At about the five minute mark, I would hit my digital focus threshold. Without a change in the medium, I couldn’t change my reading habits.
Though skimming was limiting what I learned, even more, it was limiting my personal connection with God. I have heard it said, “Unhurried time is the key to intimacy.” When I reflected on my reading, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time that I had an unhurried devotional time. Along with the busyness of life, the digital text promoted this hurried state of reading that was not just hindering the Word’s impact on my head, but my heart. I had forgotten that the Bible isn’t a textbook to read, but it is a love letter to feel. I found myself skimming through the greatest love story of all time as if it was an ESPN article.
“Unhurried time is the key to intimacy.”
My decision to stop reading my Bible digitally was exactly that: my decision. Not everyone should make that change, but I do believe that Christians should assess their life and identify what prevents “unhurried time with God.” Whether it is digital text, busy schedule, or something else, we must create a space that prevents haste from disrupting our time with our Heavenly Father. When we can do this, not only will our reading change, but our connection with God will strengthen. We will not rush over God’s Word, but linger. Our reading will no longer be interrupted by meaningless apps, but by our personal reflections and prayers. In the unhurried time with God, His Word will move from our head to our heart.
I would love to hear your thoughts below. Why do you choose to read your Bible digitally or as a hard copy? What prevents you from heaving “unhurried time with God?”