Drowning in a world of distractions

By Deacon Derick Cranston

I was swimming, about 50 yards from the shoreline, when I began to sink. The icy tendrils of the lake water wrapped around my body and started to slowly pull me down. The muscles in my arms and shoulders knotted up. My chest contracted under the water’s vice-like grip. The more I struggled, the deeper I sank. I realized that I was drowning. It was a feeling of sheer terror.

People can drown in a cold lake but they can also drown spiritually in a world full of distractions and constant demands. The super-fast pace of modern life leaves us mentally gasping and unable to focus. The battering of constant stimulation from cell phones and advertisements squashes attempts to concentrate for long periods of time.

We are suffocating ourselves without even realizing it. Don’t believe me? When you go to work, try leaving your cell phone at home and don’t check it until the next morning. Go the whole weekend without checking your email or getting on social media.

Many years ago I was drowning in that lake because I failed to heed the advice of peers I was training with for a triathlon. They told me I should wear a body-length wetsuit because the triathlon was scheduled for late May and the lake water would still be frigid from the winter thaw. Being young and arrogant, I didn’t place stock in those more experienced.

Fortunately, I was able to make it over to a buoy line, pull myself up and stay above the water’s surface. After a few minutes, my body acclimated to the water and I finished that leg of the triathlon. Is there any way to pull ourselves up from the demands of daily life and acclimate ourselves to modern life without drowning? Because that is the key — becoming aware that we need to acclimate ourselves to modern life so that it does not pull us down.

Modern life is not all bad. We have made great strides in medicine and science that can substantially improve our quality of life. Technology allows us to communicate in an instant with anyone across the globe. This in turn can spur sharing of ideas that can improve our world. But just like fire, the very first technology the human race developed, it can be used to provide warmth and light or burn and destroy us.

The first experience of the Apostle Peter attempting to walk on water almost killed him. He impetuously asked Jesus to grant him the ability to walk on water so he could come closer to Jesus. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was fine. The moment Peter looked away, he started to sink and drown.

Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us from drowning in the tumultuous sea of modern life. Even if it is just for a few moments, we should take time every day to think about Christ. Thank him for what he has provided for us, even something as basic as having a roof over our heads and a warm bed to sleep on at night.

If we do this every day, we may find our time in prayer increasing. Our connection with Christ and the ability to love others will be nurtured and strengthened. Even if life feels like it’s spinning out of control, it’s not too late to start doing this. We can’t give up; Christ is always there. Just as he reached out to Peter to save him from drowning, he is always reaching out to us. We just need to have the will to look for him.

(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at derickcranston@gmail.com.)

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