September 8, 2017
I decided to try an experiment. I would bring my phone to dinner and bury my head in it to see how my family would respond.
Our dining table is a phone-free zone. My husband James and I don’t bring our phones to meals, and our kids don’t own phones. I was certain they would comment within seconds: “That’s so rude to bring your phone to the table.”
But to my surprise, no one said a word.
We blessed the food, and everyone started eating. James asked the kids about school. I felt more and more embarrassed by my anti-social behavior, even though no one else seemed to care. I was ready for my family to reprimand me about my phone preoccupation — except no one was giving me any grief at all. My face got red hot.
I blurted out, “Hasn’t anyone noticed I’m on my phone when I shouldn’t be?!”
They calmly answered yes. James said, “I figured you had something important and time-sensitive to finish up.”
My family members weren’t the ones agitated about my phone use. I was! I felt cut off from the conversation. I was waiting to be chastised and brought back into the family discussion. I wanted someone to notice my absence.
My brief experiment showed me my family gave me the benefit of the doubt since it wasn’t my usual practice to use my phone at dinner.
It also taught me it doesn’t feel good to use a phone while eating with loved ones.
There are many times recorded in Scripture when Jesus ate with people. Granted, they didn’t have phones back then, but if they did, can you picture Jesus preoccupied with texting instead of talking? Me neither. Jesus reclined at the table with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15-17), lepers (Mark 14:3), Pharisees (Luke 7:36) and close friends (John 12:2).
Jesus communed with people, often by sharing meals with them. It was over the last Passover meal from our key verse in Luke when Jesus introduced what is now known as the Lord’s Supper. As Jesus took the cup and bread and gave thanks, His disciples were paying attention. Our key verse says, “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table” (Luke 22:14). They weren’t distracted by taking photos of this pivotal moment in history (#LastSupper) or tweeting quotes from Jesus.
Drawing inspiration from the famous words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3, I wrote a poem about the need for discernment in this digital age:
There is a time for everything technological,
And a season for every activity under your roof:
A time to take photos and a time to refrain from taking photos,
A time to text and a time for long conversation,
A time to install apps and a time to uninstall apps,
A time to limit and a time to use,
A time to watch funny cat videos and a time to read thoughtfully in a corner,
A time to delay gratification and a time for lavish gifts,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time for Facebook and a time to shut Facebook down,
A time for Skype and a time for getting on an airplane,
A time for digital advances and a time for silent retreat.
Friend, there is a time to text and a time to talk. May we have the wisdom to tell the difference.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for sometimes using my phone too much and my voice too little. Help me be fully present with people, especially when we gather around a meal. Create in me a desire to listen unhurriedly to the concerns of others. Show me if I need to make any changes to the way I use my phone and other devices. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens … a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (NIV)
It’s easy to become consumed and preoccupied with our devices. So we begin to suppress or ignore what’s most important, focusing instead on the urgent and sensational. If you’re seeking balanced technology use, resulting in a more balanced life, you’ll enjoy Arlene Pellicane’s book, Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life. It’s available in our bookstore.
Enter to WIN a copy of Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life by Arlene Pellicane. In celebration of this brand-new book, Moody Publishers is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. (We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notification to each one by Monday, Sept. 11.)
Get a free printable of Arlene’s poem on her website today.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What is your usual practice with phones and screens at mealtimes? If they are banned from the table, carry on. If they are a regular part of the meal, try putting them away one day this next week, two days next week and so on — until you find yourself enjoying uninterrupted time with family, friends or colleagues. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but keep at it, and watch your relationships improve.
© 2017 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.