By Lt. Makda Rodriguera
Seattle White Center, WA Corps
I remember jokingly saying to someone that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without my phone. Even though I was joking, it had truth to it. I don’t remember a day when I went without using my phone or computer.
The average person spends 3 hours on their phone. This doesn’t include other electronics like computers, iPads, and gaming stations. Most of us are dependent on our phones and computers to do our jobs, schoolwork, social interactions, and entertainment. So much so, we opt out of real personal relationships for virtual ones. We’d rather scroll through our social media to see how everyone is doing, comment on their post here and there, and feel like we are connected. Are we really connected though? Or is it just superficial relationships?
As human beings, we are created for interpersonal relationships. We thrive in community and friendships. Friendships with Jesus and with fellow men/women. To do this, we have to unplug from the virtual world and be present in the real world.
We can see Jesus’s example and how He unplugged to be connected to the Father and His close friends. Luke 5:16 reads, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Of course, Jesus was not in our era and didn’t have to unplug from his emails, social media, or entertainment, but He did unplug from work and everything else that demanded His attention to connect with the Father and His close friends.
He created space for interpersonal relationships. He spent time with His friends and disciples (John 3:33). He shared meals and fellowshipped with those whom He was close to (John 12:1-3). Jesus living as a perfect man shows us the importance of connection with God and others around us. In-person, uninterrupted connection with our friends and family is one of the most important spiritual disciplines we can practice. Especially in this day and age, as we have to fight to make this time.
King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23, “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest.” Working is not bad, but working with anxious striving to get our identity from it will leave us with grief and pain. We live in a time when everyone is too busy to do anything. When you ask any given person (including myself), “How are you doing?” the answer more times than not is “I’m good but so busy.” But how busy are we if we spend on average 3 hours a day and 21 hours a week just on our phones?
We can continue to work, even after work hours, we can use our time to scroll through social media or entertain ourselves, or we can choose to follow Jesus’s example and unplug from the virtual world and be connected to those around us, and Jesus.
Reflection Questions (Adel Calhoun Spiritual Disciplines Handbook page, 97):
- How has technology influenced your relationships? Do friends and family complain about the amount of time you spend online? What is their real concern?
- Are you online for both work and pleasure? What do you like about being online? What don’t you like about it?
- What sort of temptations does cyberspace hold for you? How do you address these temptations?
- Where are you using technology to avoid face-to-face encounters?
- Have you ever been “yelled at” via email? What was it like for you?
After you reflect on the questions consider working on the following Spiritual Exercises (Adel Calhoun Spiritual Disciplines Handbook page, 97):
- Technology assessment: Keep track of the amount of time you spend using digital and electronic communication each day. How much time does this amount to each week? Keep track of the uninterrupted time you spend in the presence of family and friends each day and week. Compare the times. Is God inviting you to prioritize anything based on this awareness? If you cut back the computer (Phone) one hour a week, how could you use this time to be in the presence of God or others?
- Declare a digital-free time period in each day or week. Let people know when you are available and will get back to them.
- What is it like for you to receive a handwritten letter from a friend? Write a non-electronic letter to a friend. What surfaces in you while you take the time to do this? What is gained and what is lost in electronic communication? What do you think of the trade-offs?
- Which relationships in your life need face time? Plan face-to-face time with several people this week. Do not let this time be interrupted by anything electronic.
Recommended Resource: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, copyright 2015).