Alan Jacobs’ famous essay “Attending to Technology” begins with this simple point: “Everything begins with attention.” A breathtakingly broad and absolute claim, and more true than Jacobs lets on. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 3:18, “. . . beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Beholding is seeing with raptured attention.
This beholding leads to what really matters, to the thing we search for in all our searching: to transcend, to exit ourselves and become united with the divine, to be “transformed” into the image of God. We become united with Him by becoming enraptured, in joy and pleasure, by seeing Him. Beholding Him requires paying attention to Him.
We pay attention. To attend to one object for a long time means that that object is more important - for that time - than every other possible object of my attention in the whole world. That’s why doing a long math problem can be so excruciating, unless you love it. You feel the cost - you feel the paying out of a massive opportunity cost. There are other things you love, that you ache to give your attention to instead.
Paying attention involves worship, because it involves love. This means that, when we “become” distracted, this is not a neutral moment. We are not entirely passive in our being carried away by that notification, down that Instagram rabbit-hole. Our hearts are loving, worshiping. The question is what.
A partial solution is a “jig”: a device that creates a wall between us and distraction, a Matt. 18:8-9-inspired, personally-applied, "attentional austerity" program. But austerity was never meant to be negative. It serves our joy. We apply “jigs” to train our attention on lasting joy - God.
But any “jig” is worthless without faith. It is God who opens the eyes of our hearts, to see Him in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). “Jigs” require prayer, that God’s Spirit will show us more of Christ, in the space created by the “jig”. Yes, everything begins with attention - but not ours. What matters most is whether the sovereign, gracious attention of God rests on us, to show us Himself. So set the “jig”, and pray.
A good sign that God is moving: when your use of technology turns from self to love, of God and neighbor. That iPhone becomes your servant instead of master. It is no longer an object of worship but a channel of relationship with others, for prayer, care, and love for the lost.