Augustine hated sex because he knew he was apt to distort it, and I hate my phone just the same. It should really be a very good thing. But I hate it because I know all the ways I don’t use it right. I don’t use it to FaceTime my grandma; I use it to scroll Yahoo until I find a headline that excites me. I don’t use it to extend my ability to connect with other humans; I use it to take quizzes about which Star Wars character I would be.
Look, man: I don’t want to tech-shame. But here are three reasons why why I’m ditching my phone * for Lent.
I want to be one who never misses a thing
So you might have noticed that I’m gonna be a dad. And you also might have noticed that I’m thinking a fair bit about everything that means. I’m dreaming hazy dreams about being simply and deeply present with her because I’m realizing that my simple and deep presence is really all I’ve got to give. (Other than a few time-tested strategies for Settlers of Catan.)
But somewhere in this hazy dream, the record scratched and it hit me: why isn’t that the rest of my life? Isn’t the haziest dream I could dream about a life where I’m simply and deeply present to, like, everybody and everything? Do I have anything to give you except my simple and deep presence? (Because lawd knows I’m not giving you my time-tested strategies for Catan.)
There’s a picture that made my cry once. A celebrity was walking by—shooting a scene or something—and a crowd jostled behind a barricade to steal the moment on their phones. And in this chaos, one old woman with a bright purple hat looked motionless and smiled at the celebrity like she’d just whooped his ass at cribbage.
I want to be the woman with the bright purple hat, man. I don’t want to spend my time manufacturing the best caption of a night out on the town when there’s so many things I don’t know about the woman across the table. I don’t want to wait on pins and Twitter for the Twins to sign a starting pitcher (but please, God) when you like a hundred things I haven’t yet heard of.
I want to be empty
Lent is emptying. Or maybe it’s acknowledging I wasn’t really full to begin with. It’s a staring into my endless capacity to mystify myself with all the things I do that I know aren’t good for me, my limitless willingness to justify all the good things I don’t do. And maybe, most of all, it’s choosing to expose myself to this nagging sense that there’s a presence I cast myself away from, a home to which I belong but have never much known.
But I can’t do that when I have every opportunity to keep myself full. I sometimes wonder if it’s never been easier to ignore negative emotions than the moment we currently find ourselves in. There is a medication for every ache. There is a diagnosis and prognosis for every problem. There is a surf session offering escape from any difficult thing in front of us. There is a commentary on every social ill that offers to greet us before we ever have a chance to just sit and be sad about it.
Unpopular Jesus: if you’re laughing and full and all you hear are atta-boys in your ear, savor it now because it’s the best life you’ll ever know. **
Man, Jesus gets on my nerve sometimes. Why couldn’t he have just said he came to give life and life to the full and kept it at that?
But 1st century Jesus manages to know my 21st century ills. I must regularly be emptied lest I forget that the full life Jesus really did promise to give me here is nothing more than a foretaste of a kingdom yet to fully come, lest I forget that following Jesus is at least as much about emptying and weeping and lamenting as it is about fullness and rejoicing and celebrating. I’m ditching my phone because I need space to be empty again, to sit in the not-OKness, not only to know that I’m hungry but to realize what I’ve been hungering for all along.
I want a truly new thing
Nothing offers new things quicker than my phone. It doesn’t even feel like a fair fight. There’s something in me that just needs to find out the 7 Foods You Need to Start Eating Today, something that wants to know what everybody thinks about every legislation that every senator is debating.
I’d like to tell you something outlandish I believe.
I believe that there’s something quite beyond words to which we are all attempting to return. I believe death is not something of which we are so much afraid as we are ashamed, ashamed like a lion stripped of its mane or a child stripped of her innocence. I believe there’s a desire in us that nothing here really meets, and I believe the truest explanation of this is that we were made for another world, a world without death or violent looks or uneven playing fields. Jesus called this the kingdom of God, and I believe he came to bring it here.
I’m pretty sure Jesus brought it here, but it’s not quite here all the way yet. But I believe Jesus when he said he’s making all things new. And I believe if you’ll open your eyes wide enough and let go of cynicism long enough you’ll start to see trees clapping their hands and the mountains singing and fields dancing because God is doing all kinds of new things and some of them are even begging for your participation.
Like I said earlier, I’m ditching my phone for Lent because my simple and deep presence is really all I’ve got to give, and nothing divides and clogs my attention than the rectangle in my pocket.
And though it’s been a long spell of doubt, I think I’m ready to believe that God is somebody to whom I can actually be present, and that part of that work is gathering and deepening my attention to all the crazy & beautiful things God is doing that had been previously under my nose.
*Phone is a short-hand for what I call a PPP fast: no internet except for productivity (for my work), purchasing, and publishing (dis blog)
** Luke 6:20-26