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On The Fourth Day...

Back in 2008 I heard an interview of a researcher who was studying the impact of vacation on the body.  More specifically, the impact of unplugging from technology as a part of the larger research on vacation on human bodies.  It was a fascinating interview where he described organizing a trip down the Colorado River with 11 of his research buddies, all scientists of one kind or another. They spent 14 days rafting in the Grand Canyon because this is one place where there was no possibility of cell phone or internet reception.  Each day they would take blood samples, do brain wave scans, note psychological responses, and check other bodily functions to determine what kind of impact unplugging was having. 

Of the 12 participants, half were relieved to be outside of the electronic connectivity zone.  The other half were anxious and struggled to relax.  This was good information but what came next was the big surprise.  For every participant it took the same amount of time for their bodies to “detox”, zero out, return to “normal” once they were unplugged. What it took was three full days.  Three full days for the physical systems to be brought back into health, for the chemistry to purge toxins, for the brain to restore health.

What burst into my thoughts as I listened to this interview was the theological power of three days.  The journey of Jesus from table to trial, cross to cave, tomb to triumph was a journey of three days.  His body went from stress and death to resurrection and heath.  The power of being “unplugged” opened Jesus to the new life only possible after death.

For many people today, the thought of being unplugged from technology, TV, technological stimulation of all kinds feels like death.  What used to seem strange – seeing someone talking to themselves while walking down the street – has not become expected as people talk to loved ones or transact business while getting their exercise through the magic of a smartwatch or phone and a pair of nearly invisible earbuds.  You can listen to the news or a podcast while making dinner.  You can take a hike, rake the leaves, do the laundry, get groceries, all while maintaining the connection to everything and everyone.

What we know about the impact of this constant technological connection is that our brains are changing.  Our levels of stress hormones are higher and our ability to tolerate silence, be alone with our thoughts, and sleep well are all impacted by the amount of technology (screens and otherwise) we consume.

When the interview was over a question arose in me about the impact technology was having on our faith lives, on our congregations, and on pastors as we seek to manage expectations around connectivity and productivity within our communities.  I began wondering what it might look like for congregations and pastors to take seriously the Christian call to death and resurrection by regularly practicing a 3-day technology fast to let our bodies be restored to health.  I began to imagine how much more ease and capacity we might have, as both individuals and as communities, if we were to become what I called Fourth Day Christians – people who made a commitment to fast from technology for three full days, four times a year. 

This idea has never been more than just that, an idea.  And it has stayed with me all of these years perhaps because I believe it could be a powerful Holy Week practice for those of us who desire to experience a little death and resurrection of our own.  To that end, I am fasting from social media, news, and all unnecessary technology for three full days – today through Easter morning.  I can’t go to the mountains or Grand Canyon to completely escape the technology bubble, but I can take these three days and experience a little death as I make room for Christ’s resurrection again this year.

I have a file with all of the elements of the Fourth Day project still on my desktop that I may, one day, write a grant to make happen.  Until then, I invite you to join me in a technology fast and give yourself the gift of the empty tomb this Easter Sunday.

May Christ arise in and through you now and forever.

Happy Easter!

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