A few years ago I turned on some show—I don’t even remember what is was—and I nearly went crazy. The scene shifted every thirty seconds. You no longer had dialogue that built dramatic tension over a five minute time span. Instead you had 15 seconds of verbal staccato followed by an explosion or a gunfight or a chase scene. They tell me this is all because of the video game generation—people who cannot sit still longer than a minute at a time without some sort of excitement to keep the adrenaline pumping. In fact, in the spring of 2015, a Microsoft Insights Group reported that humans now have an attention span even shorter than a goldfish. Time Magazine reported their findings in their May 14, 2015 issue. In the next couple of years, several people debunked the findings. After all, it was aimed at advertisers, didn't even define "attention span" in a scientific way, and when you examine it closely, the study is not based on any recognizable research at all.
But let's just assume for the sake of argument that our attention spans have shortened a bit over the past couple of decades—maybe not as small as a goldfish's but a little bit. Maybe I am an old fogy, but it seems to me that instead of accommodating it, we should be teaching people how to overcome it.
The problem with short attention spans is that you do not listen long enough to get below the subject’s surface. God spent 1500 years writing a book that you cannot read and understand in fifteen second bursts. He has already accommodated us with an incredible sacrifice. Seems to me we could learn to accommodate him and the way he communicates with us.
Parents, have you even thought about helping your children develop a longer attention span and a desire for greater depth in their studies? Instead of saying, “He just can’t sit still,” how about saying, “Sit still!” Instead of saying, “I can’t get them to listen,” say, “Listen! This is important!” Or don’t we believe it is?
Yes, I know all about ADHD. I have a son who has it. The doctor said that the reason he was so well-behaved and did so well in school in spite of it was because he had a verbal, educated family that believed in loving discipline. Was it easy? No, but no one ever said parenting was supposed to be. It takes patience and diligence—a long parental attention span!
It isn’t merely my idea of what does and does not constitute good behavior. I worry about children who cannot sit still long enough to learn a Bible lesson and the accompanying applications to their lives; who cannot concentrate long enough to memorize a verse that might help them in a tempting moment; who actually think the world revolves around them and needs to run on their frenetic schedule with a lot of excitement or it isn’t worth their notice. Keith has a lot of them sit across the desk from him in the prison—they usually have manacles on.
How do you think Moses managed 40 days of taking dictation from God on Mt. Sinai? How did Joshua abide the boredom of marching around Jericho everyday for six days, much less seven times on the seventh? How could Paul have fasted and prayed for three days straight without needing to get up and run around for awhile? How could those early churches sit and listen to an entire epistle being read to them at one sitting, and actually make heads or tails of it? How in the world did Noah spend 120 years building a giant box no one had ever seen before and couldn’t imagine the need for? Would any of this generation be able to?
Prayer requires long quiet moments with God. Meditation requires thoughtful time with the word of God. Commitment requires a lifetime of doing what needs to be done even when it is tedious and you don’t want to do it. Help your children learn those things. Don’t give in to yet another method for Satan to steal them away from us.
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. Neh 8:2,3.