I am still reading Isaiah and stopping often to savor certain lines before moving on. I considered this week what it means for God to be my arm.
My physical arm is part of me, a vital part that does so much each day. My phone has become a sort of arm, and I am drawn to it from the minute I rise, the “every morning” of this verse. I find myself attached to my phone as if it’s part of me. I want to rely on God like that, constantly reaching for Him, connecting with Him all throughout the day. He is my strength, my vitality, and my stability. I want my phone to be less of an arm as I situate myself in God more fully.
TJ and I reflected a few nights ago on our phone usage and discussed having a tangible/physical spot to locate, or rather dislocate, our phones during evening hours with our children. Gretchen Rubin talks about the “Strategy of Inconvenience,” which is the idea of making a habit that you want to break inconvenient to yourself so you will be less likely to continue doing it. One idea is for us to take our phones upstairs to our bedroom and leave them there as we transition from work day to family time at night. Out of sight, out of mind.
But through mine and TJ’s discussion, I realized I desire the visible reminder that our phones can be placed in a place where we all see and know they’re there, but are making a conscious choice to leave them there for now. What I envision is a pretty little crate, wooden box, or woven basket - or even a pair of cupped hands into which we could place our phones. Of course, I have to have words as part of the setup, so maybe I would lean a tiny chalkboard against the crate or box and write words on it that remind me to be true to what I know to be true. I am eager to think, think, think of what line of words would inspire us, upon each glance in that direction, that handing our phones off in this specific way is an act of courage and trust.
On my walk this morning, I came up with this verse, for starters.
Check not your phone;
Instead, check your heart.
Your phone’s going nowhere,
But your kids will depart.
Or perhaps this:
This is our family,
This is our home,
And this silly thing here
Is our stack o’phones.
Our conversation meandered in an interesting direction, and a new thought arose that excited me further. Surely someone somewhere is espousing this idea, but I’ve yet to hear a talk or sermon or conversation or seminar that delineates between a phone perpetuating individualism, isolation, privacy, and extension of self versus a phone that enhances community (in real time), shared experiences, and sharing in general: in other words, a phone for communal use like our old house phones used to be.
Who says of a single cell phone, This is our family’s phone, or This is all the kids’ phone together? What could we learn about sharing and life together with just one phone among us? How quickly might the bonds that tie us to our phones and threaten to strangle us be loosed if we took such an approach!
This is not to mean we necessarily should go back to one phone per family, but it does help to flip the notion of how we use our phones on its head and think differently for a minute or two. To stop and think is to begin to stop the madness.
A change in language about our phones could also help in changing how we think. What if, instead of asking Where’s my phone? in a moment of forgetfulness, I posed the question Where is the phone I use? or Does anybody know where I left that phone I use? These phrasings sound awkward, and I want them to! I want the language to stop me in my tracks and remind me of what the phone is (a tool) and what the phone is not (my arm).
I need to check my phone to look up the address becomes I need to look in the address book on the phone. The shift is subtle but nonetheless powerful when the lingo is depersonalized. It is a way to distance the phone from our own souls, selves, psyches. The phone becomes a thing out there, a tool to use, rather than a way to inhabit our own bodies.
I want my self, body and soul, mind and heart, to be slowly reconfigured over time to keep God at my right hand more than I keep the phone there. I imagine small tweaks and changes as I live and learn, and I imagine ongoing conversations with TJ and with friends as we figure this out together. Above all, I imagine and am grateful for God’s graciousness to us as we wait for Him to restore us to our right minds.