Have you seen them? They’re absolutely everywhere. You know, the ones who can’t stop staring.
I see them in restaurants while dining with my family. They’re preparing to eat with their families too, except–they’re not really there.
I imagine them as human versions of moths and mosquitoes, hunched over their metaphorical “bug zappers”, uncontrollably drawn in by the glow of their screens. Except, unlike the traditional bug zap, this death is slow and subtle. This is a death of family, of connection, of reality.
I see them in the park–kids begging for them to look their way. Except–they’re not really there. They’re still staring. Still hunched. Still lured in.
I’ve seen them at ballgames, at parties and even during church. They’re there, but not present. They’ve been pulled in by the drum beat of the Jumanji board; they’re in another world.
Many of them have the same excuses.
“Hold on kids, I’m just checking one email…”
“Just a second, sweetie. Just one more text…”
“I’m almost done, I just have to look up one more thing…”
Have you seen them? Truthfully, at one time or another–I’ve been one of them.
Are you ever shocked at the end of the month when you open up your credit card bill? “Whaaaaat?!? There’s no possible way I spent $1000!” You scan the credit card bill and spot a handful of $5, $10, and $20 charges, but nothing that could possibly total anywhere near a grand. Those insignificant charges have a way of adding up to a considerable amount over time, don’t they?
When I survey how many “insignificant charges” I spend simply “checking” my phone in a day, I quickly realize it’s not in my current time budget. I’ve wasted countless moments that could be spent on more life-giving activities.
It all starts innocently. As mothers, in order for our families to survive and succeed, we are multitaskers and achievers, constantly focused on working through our list of daily responsibilities. I don’t know about you, but, because of my “busy-ness”, and never ceasing “to-do list”, touching my phone in between each task I complete becomes part of my routine.
I fold a load of laundry, then check my email. I empty the dishwasher, and answer a text. I run a kid to practice and respond to a voicemail. It’s a cycle. A revolving door. A way to keep on top of things.
But, remember that pesky verse in the Bible that says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)?
Yeah. That one. That one is a struggle.
I am growing more concerned with the reality that I don’t know how to be still. I don’t know how to just be me, without a to-do list, without something in my hand, without an excuse to be “productive”.
And lately, I’ve become more aware of my addiction. I have a sort of “Pavlov’s dogs” response whenever I hear the “ding ding” of my phone. I don’t actually salivate, but my knee-jerk reaction is to reach.
At the stoplight–I reach for it. Parked in the carpool line at school–I reach for it. In the doctor’s office–I reach for it.
When I should be reaching for the only One who can turn my darkness into light, instead I reach for an artificial light; and it never satisfies. I’m so tired of looking down.
Isn’t it typical of the devil to trick us into spending the “extra” in our monthly “time budget” on looking down at a screen when God has urged us repeatedly in Scripture to look up?
“Look up at the sky and count the stars…” (Genesis 15:5) “Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you…” (Job 35:5) “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens…” (Isaiah 40:26) “Lift up your eyes and look around…” (Isaiah 49:18).
The devil is the king of deception, a master of distractions. He uses anything and everything to keep us from becoming the people God made us to be; to distract our eyes from fixing on the One who gives us everything we need.
When I think about distractions and “busyness” in life, I’m reminded of advice I received from a pastor at a church brunch about 12 years ago. His advice to the group of preschool moms in the room was this: “Make sure to look each of your kids in the eyes at least five minutes everyday.”
At that point in my life, I thought the man was crazy.
I had only one child at the time and I studied his face like it was my profession. Five minutes a day was laughable. I spent ENTIRE DAYS looking him in the eyes.
It took me years to finally see a bit of truth in what that pastor said.
By child #4, I completely got it.
The thing that makes my head spin is the fact that this Christian man’s advice came PRIOR to the prevalence of the smart phone. With all of the added distractions in the world today, how much time would we be urged to look our kids in the eyes now?
If you feel discouraged at this point in the article–stop. There’s always hope–always opportunity for change.
Technology, in and of itself, isn’t inherently good or bad; it’s a tool. It’s like money–completely neutral. It’s the use of the tool that forces technology toward one direction or the other. Basically, humans put technology to work for good or for evil. It’s our job to keep our use of it in check. We have the control. We hold the power. We form our habits.
I’m ready for my habits to change. How about you? As I’ve mentioned before, when I feel moved toward something, it doesn’t take me long to take action.
So, this is my idea: every time I’m tempted to touch my screen, I must write something down for which I’m thankful.
I can’t wait to see the never-ending list of blessings in written form.
However, I’m challenged by this exercise on two different levels. The obvious one is that I have to stop touching my phone every time I have the urge to click, swipe or tap. Sadly, I sometimes feel like Gollum, seeking “my precious” repeatedly and being drawn toward its comforting glow.
The second issue is that my current habit involves me sending myself an email every time I have an idea or need a reminder; for a blog post, for a home renovation, or to simply put toilet paper on the grocery list.
But, it’s time to change. I’m on a mission: to renew my mind, retrain my brain and to be present where I am.
It’s important that we all make it a practice to be present for the ones we love.
I have a family that loves and cares enough about me to pull me back into the moment whenever I’m not present. If ever I linger too long on my phone while with my sister, I hear her jokingly say, “Hey Laura! Be where you are!” Except, it’s not a joke to me. It’s so important to me to be reminded on a regular basis. I’ll take all the help I can get.
So, this is me, as a friend, reminding you: Wherever you are, be all there.
If you happen to see me sitting in the carpool line at school and I’m lost in the gleam of a screen, do me a favor and honk your horn a few times to snap me back into reality, ok? Or, if you have my number, shoot me a text telling me to shut it down and just be still. Please and thanks in advance.
I made this sign specifically for this post, with the hope that one of my readers would want to hang it in their home as an encouragement.
In order to be entered in the giveaway, simply comment in the box below (on THIS blog post, NOT on Facebook, because I can’t see all of the comments on Facebook) this post with the words, “I’ll be present where I am.” -or- “I will be still.” Anyone can comment, and if you don’t necessarily want the sign for yourself, try to think of someone that might be blessed by these words, and give it to them. A winner will be chosen within the week.
********UPDATE********Debbie is the winner for this post. Thank you to everyone who commented. I appreciate it. *************
And of course, if you want to comment “for real”, and not be entered into the contest, I love reading all of those words too!
Thanks so much for reading.
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