What is one of the smaller items you own that also exerts some of the greatest control over you?
Do you grip it in utter dreas when you walk by the large grates in the parking lot?
Do you put it to your ear and pretend to talk to someone when you arrive late to a meeting?
Do you keep it handy so that you will look less alone while in public places by yourself?
Photos: Eric Pickersgill; thank you Katrina for finding these and downloading them.
It was a defining moment—one of those instances in which the reality of the new day became crystal clear.
It was the Friday night of our DiscipleNow weekend. All the youth were gathered at the dinner table. Instructions were being given concerning the events of the weekend. At the appointed time, I announced: “Drew will be walking among you with this large, attractive bowl. Please place your cell phone, iPod, and other electronic gadgets in the bowl.”
Then I said casually, “. . . and you will get them back Sunday morning.”
You would have thought I had said, “. . . and now you will be injected with a deadly virus.”
There was an audible, collective gasp. Abject expressions of horror and disbelief darkened their young, fresh faces. Then a cacophony of lamentation and wailing such as has not been heard in all the days of the Fellowship Hall arose from the depths of their tortured souls.
As the initial trauma dissipated, they summoned the courage to comply. Shaking hands, shallow breathing, nervous voices and baleful glares accompanied the deposition of said phones. I was proud of them: the first step is often the hardest in dealing with addiction.
The kids did survive without their phones, for nearly two whole days. No one died; no one missed life-altering appointments. Some of the youth were in withdrawal for a while, a few had DTs (digital tremors), but they eventually (sort of) got used to being not “connected” and, in fact, seemed to forget about their phones—for several minutes at a time. A few bravely ventured, at the end, that “it wasn’t so bad after all.”
The ubiquitous nature of all things digital, miniature and wired to the world, sets one to pondering. How did society manage to survive in the pre-cell phone era? What has transpired in just the past few years (milli-seconds, geologically speaking) to create this desperate need to be connected 24/7, able to surf, call, text and twitter at the flick of a thumb?
What is it about the human nature that so desperately fears missing out on the very latest viral video, funny story, or photos of incredibly cute cats and dogs and babies.
POSITIVE ASPECTS OF MY CELL PHONE
It provides control of my communication and personal business.
To be sure, these are fantastic, fascinating tools with untold potential for good.
We love the “freedom”, the sense of being “in control” and the ability to reach anyone we please, at any time, and to be reached, as well. Texting is handy on occasion: a reminder, a quick query….
Until I lose the entire contact list in a OS upgrade….
It improves efficiency in business transactions and is useful for emergency response.
These hinge on the ability to transmit instantaneously words and images.
Parents can check up, children can check in . . . convenient, real-time assurance that all is well.
I track my daily Bible reading schedule on it!
It is a means to information gathering and entertainment.
How do you think I do sermon preparation these days?
NOT SO POSITIVE ASPECTS OF MY CELL PHONE
But wait . . . is this really “freedom”? Are we really “in control”? A little voice from the Luddite corner of my primitive brain demands to be heard.
I know what you’re thinking: “He is so regressive, so early 21st century. Give it up. This is the way things are going. You can’t fight it.”
Consider the mental, physical, emotional, and social costs….
Reduced attention span
More and more studies point to over-stimulation of the brain as a cause of ADD-type behavior, short attention spans and loss of productivity (no matter what they think, neither kids nor adults are as focused and competent when they are multitasking on computer, phone, TV and iPod simultaneously.)
Reduction of actual face-time.
How easy it is to avoid face-to-face interaction when you can simply email or text.
How easy it is to avoid people inches away from you. People spend more time surfing and “social networking” and not enough time reading, playing, sleeping or being quiet.
Networking vs. genuine community. A back-lit screen, a few laughs on YouTube and a chat in cyberspace can still leave you isolated, alone in a crowd of FaceBook friends.
Surrendering of control.
You don’t really own a cell phone. It owns you. How often do you check email, texts, other apps?
Ask yourself these questions: Am I able to ignore it or do I live at its beck and call, at the whim of anyone who decides in this moment to speed dial my number?
Do I fear that I will miss out on important stuff if I am not on it in every down moment? Will the caller be offended and hurt if I do not answer the moment he calls? Is every call urgent?
Unabated, unapologetic interruptions . . . the inability to stay in the moment without the insatiable beast distracting and demanding? How many times have you been in a conversation and your friend just had to answer his insistent ring tone: “It might be important . . . certainly more important than this talk I am having with you right now.” Have you ever been in a gathering for prayer and one of the faithful had to dismiss himself in order to respond to the annoying buzzing in his pocket? Do you suppose it annoys God?
Two phones rang in the funeral service last Monday…in a little country church in southwestern Oklahoma…what do they have to talk about?
It is a self-fulfilling technology…you realize that you get so much done on the phone because you are doing things that only accrue to you because you have a cell phone.
The obvious dangers:
Chatting and texting while driving.
More likely to have an accident while talking on the phone than being drunk.
Health issues: do you realize how many germs are on your phone?
Someone else’s phone ringing…especially the one owned by the old guy who doesn’t know how to turn it off.
Apparently we love our phones but we hate everyone elses.
The less obvious but no less destructive dangers:
Stress of being accessible 24/7. That’s the source of phantom buzzing.
Gossip, slander, bullying, pornography and “sexting”.
DOES THE BIBLE HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY?
As Christians, we ask whether the Bible has anything to say to the issue at hand. Over 2,000 years old, the Bible doesn’t directly address many contemporary issues—and certainly not digital media. But its truths do speak to today’s world.
Two interpretive principles:
1. Use the whole Bible when seeking instruction or guidance on an issue.
2. The Bible teaches through principles, rules and stories:
Principles are broad, universal truths, relevant in all times and places
Rules are specific applications of the principles
The Bible stories illustrate the principles in life situations
Throughout its narrative, Scripture presents principles which are valid and trustworthy for every age.
- You can make an idol out of anything.
If someone offered you a million dollars to go without FaceBook, wifi, email, texting, video games, would you do it?
What is an idol?
Anything that I decide is most important in my life and to which I give extra time and energy and devotion and money. An idol is whatever I determine is more important than God based on the priority I give to it.
God doesn’t look lightly on our making anything more important in our lives above Him.
Exodus 20:3, 23
Jeremiah understood the laughable nature of an idol, an how much that idol makes its worshiper look silly.
It may be harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for you to give up your phone.
- God calls you to be different from the world around you.
I Peter 1:15
He expects your character to be different.
II Peter 1:5-7
Does excessive texting and constant search for videos cultivate self-control, patience, humility, and kindness?
Does lots of time on FaceBook lead you to love God and to love your “neighbor” (Matt. 22:36-29)?
He expects your language to be different.
Ephesians 4:28-32; 5:4
He expects you to be careful with what you put into your mind.
You will be held accountable for how you use the time and abilities you have been given
II Cor. 5:10
- Refocus and Balance
After all, the phone is where the heart is.
You know what will be a disaster? When the cell towers go dead and you can’t text your neighbor to find out if she’s ok.
Refocus: What is God’s purpose for your life?
Does the investment of yourself in all of your electronic toys take you in the direction He has marked out for you? If “yes,” then there is no impediment. If “no,” then you must seriously question whether the extent of your investment of time, money and mind and heart in these things is right for you.
Refocus your heart’s desire:
Mt. 22:37 heart, soul, mind, strength
Why do we or our children have to be entertained by gadgets constantly?
“We inculcate in our children the sensibilities of raccoons, a fascination with shiny objects and an appetite for garbage, and then carp about 'the texting generation' as if thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds who couldn't boil an egg are capable of creating a culture. They grow on what we feed them. It has never been otherwise. The only thing that changes is the food.”
― Garret Keizer, Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher
I Cor. 10:23, 31
Maybe we should learn how to take a break from our stuff. Perhaps we could turn off the phone for a bit, unplug at dinner and other times. Perhaps we could set aside uninterrupted time to read, run, rest, clear our mind, and meditate on the One who has given us life and brains and gifts and hope and promise in this world and the next.
Help your kids find a balance.
Gen. 2:4 Even God rested…did something different!
They won’t die if they don’t have the latest phone.
They will be fine without a phone, computer and TV in their rooms with full, unsupervised access at all hours of the day and night.
God is personal and relational. He made us the same way. Let’s model for our kids and our friends the importance of face time with God, with each other, and with the Body of Christ.