Rector's Ramblings July 9, 2014
I love my smart phone, perhaps too much. One of my growing edges is to learn to put it down more often. It’s something I’ve been doing better with, but which still presents a challenge. An attachment to cell phone – smart phones in particular – leads to a distracted life. Much has been said and done to convey the downside of our tethered lives (tethered to the office, to texting, to Facebook, etc.) and the ways they cause such distractions. The damage that such distraction causes can range from interpersonal distancing from those we love to literally causing bodily harm and even death in the case of texting while driving.
I have had several conversations with others lately about their struggle to turn off their phones and put them down, particularly when they are with their families. I share that struggle. The ready access of email, internet, and social media is a tempting draw, and quickly becomes habit, a habit that is very hard to reverse. It is not just adults that struggle with this. Kids too, and perhaps to a greater degree, seem to have a hard time keeping themselves in the moment without the distraction of smart phones and the like. There are studies that chart the ability of the teenage mind to multitask (or not), debating the true cost of carrying on multiple conversations while studying with the TV on and jumping back and forth to one of several screens at the same time.
In reality, many of us are prone to distractions and daydreaming, and our technology has simply made it easier. I don’t remember having any trouble getting distracted in conversations and classrooms long before I carried a phone or a computer with me. At work, a conversation with a coworker could distract from the task at hand, at least until a supervisor or manager helped “motivate” us back on task. It is a rare person who is singularly focused all the time, able to achieve each goal that they set without being distracted from it in some way.
Some have said, “Life IS distractions,” and I don’t think that’s far from reality. There is much in the world that competes for our attention and our energy, and it is a regular occurrence that we get distracted from one thing to deal with another, and then another, until it’s time to go to sleep at night. Sure, there are ways we can plan our days and track our tasks, but none of it is foolproof or able to eliminate the reality of living with distractions altogether. Sometimes we have a hard time sticking to what we set out to do, even if it is something we love and hold quite dear.
The Christian faith is a perfect example. We know the teachings of Jesus, and we try to live them out to the best of our ability, but other things distract us from that ultimate goal, and our ability to live as faithful disciples ebbs and flows. Yes, Lord, I want to help my neighbor, but I have this really important luncheon to attend. I want to tithe, but goodness; I really need that vacation or that new car. I absolutely want to stay in touch through prayer, but my days are so full of other things that I just don’t find the time. Now all of these could be considered matters of distraction from our task of discipleship, even though all those things might be important in their own right. But then they might not. They might be distractions from the life in Christ that we’re called to.
It has become an intentional act for me to put my phone down, or leave it in another room, or in the glove box, in order to focus on what’s most important to me in those moments; reading with my kids, getting some true down time, or just arriving at my destination alive. I have to put effort into eliminating the distractions and focusing on what I really want to do and connecting with the people and events in my life that are most important to me. I suppose the same is true in my life as a follower of Christ. I wonder how I will manage to deal with those distractions?
*Special Note: This past week marked the one year anniversary of Merritt Levitan’s death while bicycling across the country. She was struck and killed at the age of 18 by a motorist who was distracted while texting. Merritt’s family (members of Christ Church) established some charitable outreach efforts to pass along Merritt’s legacy through making the world a better place. One of those is the Text Less Live More campaign, which you can read about here: http://www.merrittsway.org/initiatives/textless-live/. The campaign’s goal is to, “decrease excessive phone use and encourage people to disconnect from the virtual world and reattach themselves to the real world…and also prevent dangerous habits like texting and driving.” I commend it to you and to those you care to share it with.
O heavenly Father, who in thy son Jesus Christ, has given us a true faith, and a sure hope: help us, we pray thee, to live as those who believe in the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the Resurrection to life everlasting, and strengthen this faith and hope in us all the days of our life, through the love of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.