I recently asked my team (a.k.a. my family) to help hold me accountable to being off my phone more. My 7 year old (who is basically ready to run the world) did not disappoint and took this task very seriously and drew 7 identical signs to post around the house (that all have an owl mascot on them), and cut out 20 ‘tickets’ to give me when I messed up.
This girl loves rules, loves keeping the rules, and loves ‘helping’ others keep the rules. Where I am weak with accountability and follow through, she excels. What a blessing that we are on the same team, we balance each other out a bit. And OH MY GOODNESS has she has stuck to it. If after picking up my phone to check the recipe on Pinterest, I linger a bit to check twitter – she is RIGHT THERE, looking up at me sternly.
Actually, it feels embarrassing to admit that I need help from something that shouldn’t be a problem in the first place. It feels like I am not mature enough or discerning enough or can’t use my time wisely enough or be Christian enough to just enjoy social media for what it is and leave the negative bits. Sort of like how we wonder why an alcoholic can’t just have one glass of wine every now and again.
I like how Sarah Bessey describes this in her recent journey to give up drinking alcohol (read this article it’s amazing)
We begin to sense that this Thing that used to be okay is no longer okay. The Thing that used to mean freedom has become bondage. The Thing that used to signal joy has become a possibility of sorrow. The Thing that used to mean nothing has become something, perhaps everything. It has happened about other habits or dependencies or sins or stumbles in my life as I’ve followed Jesus.
Awhile ago I started seeing social media as The Thing. I saw just how much I was really on my phone. In addition to the shear amount of hours consumed, I also saw my reactions to what other people shared. I saw my own motivations in what I would share. And they weren’t pretty. And I can’t unsee those things. And try as I might, I can’t wish them away or self-help them into oblivion.
Accountability is good and my daughter’s compassion and determination inspire me, it has legitimately helped me, but if accountability and self discipline are my only courses of action in life then I think I am screwed and honestly a little disappointed.
Because my accountability partner can’t always be there.
Because I can hide in the bathroom (and I do…)
Because I can lie.
Because I fail.
But most importantly and most powerfully, because my phone still tastes good to me. Or rather, the things that my phone offers taste good to me. As long as a thirst is present, I will keep trying to satiate it even if I am going back to water that is muddy.
Unfortunately, simply placing more rules and guidelines and reminders to stay off my phone will always fail me if I don’t attend to the deep thirst and the need to distract myself which lie within.
You know how a yummy donut is heaven for a few minutes, but jiggly thighs inevitably come down the road if you eat enough of ’em (I have experience with this one, trust me!)? Or how that delicious, spicy, cheesy chile relleno was quickly devoured but left me with heartburn for an entire day (totally worth it!)? Well, social media leaves my heart and my soul with things that can’t be remedied by some extra leg squats or popping a couple of Tums. It leaves me missing the life I want. It leaves an ugly gamut of emotions like envy, desperation for praise, loneliness, self-righteousness, superiority, rejection, outrage, greed, sadness, narcissism, and unrest – all sparked and then fueled in this place that wants to promise connection, authenticity and yes even freedom. Ironically these are the same ugly emotions that drive me to to social media in the first place. What an unending cycle it all is.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
I turn to the internet for water, because I am thirsty, but am always left with gritty sand in my mouth. I know where living water is found. I know where there is a stream that will quench every thirst I have. But knowing will only carry me so far.
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
Jesus has never yet wrestled me to the ground and force fed me, so I don’t really expect him to start now.
Solitude and silence await me.
I must go to that lonely place in the quiet- where the Instagram filters and quick wit and right ideology that form my protective layers are stripped away and I am left bare to be seen by the one who made me.
I must go to that lonely place in the early morning hours – where demands and chores and tasks haven’t yet taken over.
I must go to that lonely place in the dark– where even though I search frantically, distractions and momentary highs cannot be found, so I must rest.
Solitude and silence. Where I am afforded the opportunity to relinquish my relevance, relinquish my image, relinquish my competence.
At the beginning, my mind screams in the quiet. The noisy racket of anxieties, fears, concerns, stresses get louder and louder, but there is no volume dial, no power switch! So one by one I release my grip on them and give them to the Lord. I try to be patient with myself. I center myself around Him. I breathe deep. I sip my coffee. I wait. I wait longer.
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
I must go to that lonely place in the quiet – if only to pay attention to my thirsts.
My deepest longings and thirsts are to be seen. To be favored. To be celebrated. To be invited. To be pursued. To be valued. To be valuable. To have purpose. To be known.
I must go that lonely place in the quiet – to drink deeply from living water.
My thirsts are quenched as I am seen. As I am favored. As I am celebrated. Invited. Pursued. Valued. Known and given purpose.
It is from being filled by the Father’s love for me and my place with Him – not just once but morning by morning in solitude and in silence – that I can look down at my turquoise phone and truly believe that life is not found there, that I don’t need to be distracted, and that there are better things waiting for me elsewhere. The desire and appetite leave me, slowly. And less and less I turn to that and more and more I live life apart from it and as Sarah Bessey says “be invited to more shalom, more peace, more hope, more love, more trust, more wholeness”
By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.