Brandon and I just returned from a week away in the mountains of Pennsylvania with our college students, feasting on God's Word at our week-long student conference called Focus. It was a refreshing week for my soul, studying the book of Isaiah and communing with the Lord through the Psalms.
A perk of having Focus in the mountains of Pennsylvania is that there is limited cell phone service. I didn't realize how much my weary soul needed a break from my phone and a severed tie to social media until this past week. It was just me, Jesus, fellow staff workers and around one hundred and sixty college students engaging face-to-face. Honestly, I did not miss the hustle and distraction of my phone.
I've been thinking about phone usage lately and I keep seeing the subtle ways that it demands our attention and affections. It takes up our time, steals our joy, and robs the delight that we are meant to find in the Lord. A technological gift that can connect us to others for the purpose of loving them better actually hinders us from loving others well.
I didn't realize how much attention my phone demands until getting married. You would think that my attention would be focused on enjoying my first year of marriage with my husband, but sadly I can count the times Brandon has pointed out how my phone distracts me during moments of connection with him. I don't want a phone to get in the way of my marriage, and I don't want my phone to get in the way of ultimately communing and connecting with my God.
One of our staff workers gave a talk from Isaiah 42 this past week and he brought up how idols make demands upon us. He shared, "Idols do not die for you. They make you die for them." It struck me how true this is when it comes to enslavement to our phones. We could be sitting somewhere quietly trying to focus on a task, and we'll hear that familiar vibration, letting us know that someone just sent us a text. We'll sit there, trying to concentrate on our task while feeling the tug to look at our phone. It's amazing how easy it is to be lured into dying for an idol, particularly a cell phone.
There were several missionaries that came to visit and spoke at the conference this week, and one missionary spoke about being consecrated by God for particular missional purposes. He spoke about how God consecrates us and makes us holy for God's glory and purposes, but he also encouraged us to offer up our belongings to God to be consecrated.
He shared a story of the car he bought after college. He drove it to a cemetery and prayed over it, consecrating it to the Lord, and asking the Lord to not let a car come between his relationship with the Lord. As this man shared his story, I thought of my phone. Had I ever asked the Lord to consecrate this piece of technology that I use daily for His purposes? It was a new thought, and I prayed that God would keep my phone from getting in the way of my relationship with Him and to use it for His purposes.
I haven't been out of the mountains for more than twelve hours, and I already feel the pull and tug of my cell phone, beckoning me to find my life in it. However, if there's one thing that this week-long break from my phone showed me, it's that I enjoy the freedom of not being attached to my phone. It frees me to focus on loving people and communing with God. It helps me not to feel mentally divided or distracted, and my soul feels refreshed. Does your soul long for this too?
I'm learning how to use my phone for the Lord's glory and recognize the subtle ways that it makes unhelpful demands of me. I share this with you because I hope that you would consider looking for these subtle demands as well. My hope is that we would learn to use our phones in a way that honors God, and I'm realizing that taking a step back from it helps us to put its purpose in perspective.
Abundant life will never be found in our phones. Our phones regularly ask us to die for them and to give up our lives. But Jesus does something completely different. He died for us so that we may have abundant life (John 10:10). My prayer is that we would remember this every time we hear that familiar vibration from our phones, asking us to pick them up. We can have abundant life, and it's found in Jesus.
P.S. I'm reading a book called 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. If you're struggling with the demands that your phone makes of you or want to learn more about how our phones affect our daily lives, this book might be a blessing to you too.
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