What would life be like if we said phone use was our greatest priority? Let's look at such a day...
What if we planned to use our phones for the first 15 to 30 minutes in the early morning? Instead of sleeping in, what if we set our alarms and resolved to rise early to be alone with our phones? Instead of waking up, though, we keep hitting snooze until the kids get up or it's time to get ready for work. By then, we scramble to make coffee, grab a shower, throw a shirt in the dryer, and hit the door. We're frustrated that we couldn't get up, so we promise ourselves that tomorrow morning will be different! Plus we have time to spend time on our phones later. It's only 7:15 for crying out loud!
What if we decided that since we hadn't used our phones before work that we'll wait til lunch? We'll have a half-hour of quiet time, and we can give full attention to our phones. Instead, we get interrupted by a coworker for 15 minutes and don't want to be rude, so we scarf down our meal and run to the restroom. Now lunch is over. Oh well, we'll just get around to it later when we can get a chance to sit down and be alone with it. It's only noon and there's plenty of the day left. Surely the afternoon will be better than the day has started out.
What if we got home after a busy and exhausting day only to find that our children needed our attention and our responsibilities demanded our focus, time, and energy for the next 4 or 5 hours? We planned family phone time at dinner, but decided last-minute that it would just be easier to eat and get the kids to bed. There was no time to plan it, and we haven't even had phone time alone. We know that our children would greatly benefit from the screen time, and we convince ourselves that they know we care a LOT about our phones, even if we don't really use them very much. Since tomorrow's always more convenient, we'll just wait.
What if we were so tired at bedtime that we decided to veg out and watch the latest episode of TV, hang out with our spouse, or just crash and get an extra bit of shut-eye—we all need more sleep, especially when there are little ones at home! Perhaps we even planned to have phone time together with our spouse, but just weren't feeling it tonight. We reluctantly grab our phone after waiting all day to use it knowing that we'll get drowsy and fall asleep within a few minutes, but we reassure ourselves that some phone time is better than none. Plus, we know that tomorrow will definitely be better than today was.
What if we planned to meet up with a friend tomorrow for coffee to talk about life and our phones? Instead of any real phone conversation, though, we spent most of the time joking around, catching up, and talking about current events. We do talk about phones, but it's mainly about how frustrating American life can be with all the busyness and struggles that keep us from really enjoying our phones like we want to. We're tempted and we struggle with all kinds of distractions that keep us from living the life our phones promise us. By the time we glance at our watches, it's time to go, and we didn't really do much more than shallow chit chat. We'll do a better job next week, for sure!
What if we only planned to be with friends and family once a week for an hour to engage with our phones together? Some of us get to hear a nice Ted Talk that tells us how to do better and think differently based on a blend of the speaker's ideas and some of the information gathered from his phone. Others get a really good message from our phones about how to enjoy more phone time and connect with the maker of the phone. However, rather than enjoying the time together and focusing on our phones, we get sidetracked by the craziness of the morning, our to-do list at home, and the cookout we are going to enjoy afterward. Since we had plenty of phone time in the morning, we'll just put our phones up and enjoy a day off today. This morning's pick-me-up will be just the boost we need for the week.
A Parable Explained
In a culture that spends upwards of 5 hours a day on our phones, this doesn't sound like devotion, does it? In a scenario like this, there are certainly priorities, but it's not phones. From the outside looking in, it wouldn't seem that we even cared much about our phones. Phones would probably end up becoming dusty relics of a bygone era in less than a generation. If nothing else, people would keep buying phones and using them sporadically enough to be familiar with them, but there would be few people whose lives are marked by devotion to a glowing screen.
So it is with our Bibles and our devotional lives. The scenes painted are from my life and the lives of countless people around me. We claim to be devoted to God. We plan and "prioritize" our devotional lives, but it seems that so many things crowd out our priorities. The irony of this parable is that such a “struggle” to prioritize phone use is rarely a struggle for many of us. There are very few people who need to work hard at getting their 5 hours of phone time in. Yet most of us know the struggle to get even 15 minutes of solid Bible time each day.
This isn't meant to guilt you into Bible reading. It occurred to me as I was listening to Jerry Bridges' True Community that my priorities are often out of sync with Scripture. Theoretically, I prioritize communion with God. I've read books on the topic, I write about it often, and I preach about it in my sermons quite a bit. However, this quote from Bridges hit me like a ton of bricks:
"Most of us do not experience this continual communion and corresponding delight in God that the Bible talks about. Worse yet, we do not even long for it. We are content to use God — to seek His help in our jobs, our studies, our marriages, and, yes, even our ministries."
Do we experience communion and delight in God as the Scriptures reveal it? Or do we constantly chase communion with God while being tripped up and distracted from seeking Him? Do we long for time with God in reading, meditating on, and praying through His Word? Are we content to use God like a genie who is sovereign over the universe? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves.
In light of these questions, the answer is not to get up tomorrow and try harder in our own abilities. Rather, we need to strive with all His energy to seek and find Him (Colossians 1:29). The reward of secret communion with and devotion to God is God Himself (Matthew 6:4). Those who seek God with their full heart will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 7:7). Yet we know that none seek after God until they've been born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; Romans 3:11). Will you give everything in you to seek and find the Lord? There's not a more rewarding life than the one that lives in communion with the triune God.