Detaching from Detachment

I’m standing in line at a local coffee shop — there’s only a couple people in front of me — but for quick minute, I pull out my phone and check the most recent couple of Tweets until it’s my turn to order. 

Later, I’m at lunch with a friend and he briefly leaves to use the restroom. As soon as he has taken a step away from the table, I’ve already grabbed my phone, refreshed my mail app, and am scrolling over subject lines to see if anything jumps out.

When I have fifteen-minutes between appointments, I aimlessly wander through my Instagram feed then check to see if I have any new FaceBook notifications.

In the evening, I’m in a conversation with my wife or wrestling with my kids when my phone buzzes, causing me like one of Pavlov’s dogs to turn my attention to my phone and away from my family.

The scary part is, I do all of these things automatically. Habitually. Without even thinking about them. If I  have a silent moment, I’ll check my email. If I’m tired or stressed out, I’ll find quick relief mindlessly scrolling through social media. If my phone buzzes, I come running.

But even then, I never have to run far as there is rarely a moment throughout the day when it is out of my reach. In fact, my phone is my most faithful companion. It is the last thing I see as I set its alarm going to bed, and it is the first thing I see as I turn off its alarm when I wake up. I won’t even get started on the anxiety I feel when the battery drops below 20%.

Honestly, my attachment to my phone is at the point where the line has blurred between whether I control my phone or it controls me, which is unhealthy. It’s wrong. And, this blurred line of control is causing real damage in my life. 

Countless times now, I’ve missed out on the opportunity to be fully present in a coffeeshop, enjoying the aesthetics and being attentive in my interactions with the barista. I’ve sold the times with my friends short by not using the brief moments of their absence to thoughtfully reflect on encourage them or follow up with a question about something they’ve shared. And, most tragically, by allowing myself to be so easily interrupted whenever my phone lights up, I’ve communicated to my family that whatever is happening on my phone is more important or pressing than the moments I am sharing with them there-in-that-moment.

And, truly, I am so sorry for that. It grieves me deeply. All of it.

I’m confessing my sin and struggle with an idolatrous dependance upon my phone because I anticipate that many of you relate. I figure that most of you, too, have had similar struggles in relation to these powerful and invasive devices.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” 

Let me be clear, your phone is absolutely lawful for you to have. It is not wrong for you to own a smartphone. But, just you’re allowed to have a smartphone does not mean your phone is necessarily helpful to you. In fact, Paul implicitly warns that even things that are lawful can dominate, or enslave, you. 

So, I ask:

    • Could you go a week without your smartphone, or does the thought of going without it cause you anxiety? What is it about not having your phone that makes you anxious? 
    • Have the people you’re physically present with most often — your spouse, children, roommates, or family members — ever expressed concerns about your attachment to your phone? If so, how have you responded? Do they feel the priority of their presence when you are together, or do they take a backseat to what’s happening on your phone?
    • Does your phone generally assist you in accomplishing God’s will in your life? Does it make you more productive in your work and effective in your ministry? Or, more often, does it distract you from completing your tasks and being present where God has placed you?

Based on my own answers to these questions, I have identified several habits with my phone that I need to change. I need to exercise greater self-control and create more separation between myself and my device. I need to delete several apps that suck my time and attention, and turn off nearly all of my notifications. And, I need to put my phone out of reach when my family is present to give them them priority they deserve. 

You likely need to make some of these changes, and others, as well. But why? Here’s one motivation: in order “to lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” so that we may “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” as we look to Jesus and experience in greater measure the incomparable joy that is found in a life lived in service to him (Hebrews 12:1–2).

To that end, please you pray with me . . .