Friday, January 30, 2015

Preoccupied with Your iPhone?

I don’t have an iPhone. But I’ve been around folks who do have an iPhone enough to see their preoccupation with it.

If two people are having a conversation, for example, and one person is in the vicinity of their iPhone, the beeps, murmurs, and vibrations of the iPhone trump the person physically present in the conversation. The eyes of the iPhone owner quickly go to the iPhone and the hands pick it up, while the owner distractedly mumbles, “uh-huh, yep” to the person who is physically still talking to him.

If I am the person talking to the iPhone user, I stop talking and wait. And I’m not gonna lie, in the beginning I found this amusing. But as time goes on, I find it an irritating intrusion (my marriage mentoring tells me I’m not alone in this).

See, back in my day, when we met socially with people, we left our landlines (known then as telephones) at home on the kitchen wall. If we were home and it rang during dinner, the rule was to let it ring. If we weren’t home when it rang, we would never have a clue that anyone even tried to call because we didn’t have answering machines (I remember a few years into my marriage, installing our first phone with an attached answering machine. I came to loathe that thing because it meant I had to return phone calls!)

But I digress.

The iPhone distraction is an amazing, if not scary, pull; a drug really. I’ve seen parents completely ignore their children on outings for an image on a screen (and vice versa—children, after all, learn what they live), Solitaire played on them during worship services, and ESPN watching and Facebooking going on in graduate level classrooms during lectures. And none of it is seen by the users to be thoughtless or rude, or even, at a minimum, distracting (to themselves or others).

This past summer, as I was walking along the Chicago beachfront, I witnessed something that is playing out across the globe: A dad is playing in the shallow water with his little girl. He keeps looking farther up the beach to where his wife sits texting into her iPhone. Finally, he and the girl walk up closer to the mom, and the dad says something that I cannot hear. But his face says it all. The mom, in utter exasperation, snaps back loudly, “I am emailing my work!” The dad takes the little girl by the hand, returning silently and sullenly back to the water.

All this has got me thinking. If I find it irritating, and the dad on the beach finds it irritating, and the kids on vacation with their disengaged parents find it irritating, and graduate school professors find it irritating, and pastors find it irritating, how does God find it when I do the same to Him? I may not ignore God for an iPhone, but I put Him off and make Him wait just the same.

When I arise in the morning to pray, for instance, I may find myself saying, “Just a sec” to God. An entire morning can go by and I realize my “just a sec” turned into “forgot to pray at all.” When I send the emotionally charged email in spite of God’s quiet voice entreating me not to, I have just ignored Him in lieu of my fleshly desire (which I will, as usual, live to regret). When I drop to the level of a kindergartner in my ongoing dialogue with someone with whom I disagree, and I hear God saying, “Don’t go there,” and I go there anyway, I have just chosen to go it alone in the power of me, myself and I instead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s like dropping God for an incoming iPhone message every time. We are losing the ability to delay gratification (especially gratification that is selfish and inconsiderate).

The draw of the iPhone is the draw of distraction, of self, of instant gratification, of drama, of something going on in my otherwise average life. Those same draws pull us away from God: the God we feel may be rather silent these days, or uneventful, or distant. But the truth is, it is our putting God off that results in the silence, the un-eventfulness and lack of substance in our daily life. Because it is often our willing allowance of distractions that causes us not to hear, not to experience, and not to live out God in our daily life.

copyright Barb Harwood

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!’” Joshua 24:14-16

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