An epiphany occurred recently, a result of reading David McCullough’s John Adams. The Revolutionary War era belonged to a letter-writing generation, an age of contemplation where people looked well beneath the surface of things. A day that strove to see beyond itself, that peered into what yet might be. An epoch in time when relationships not only endured, but through the art of cleaving, blossomed.
What was their secret? Here lay the epiphany.
Hundreds and hundreds of letters passed between this husband and wife, John and Abigail Adams, and among their children and their own parents and friends. And they were not alone; it was a mark of their time. Letters enriched their own lives for years to come, and generations to follow. Until the last half century, letters were the realm where hearts spilled out treasures gleaned while sojourning this earthen sod we call home. In handwritten form, questions found formulation and answers discovered a field in which to germinate and bear fruit. Letters became the pages where time, rather than wasted, became fertile soil enriching relationship in ways unknown and forgotten today.
Sometimes progress is more bane than blessing. Yesterday’s letter writing has given way to today’s airwaves. And as wonderful as a telephone seems to be on the surface of things, in truth it has robbed people of genuine relationship … robbed us in unexpected and surprising ways.
Have you ever noticed the human frailties telephones seem to feed? Speaking without thinking. Gossiping about the trivial things of life. Liable and slander flow at the speed of light with nothing to check their progress. We chatter away mindlessly, hour after endless hour … enriching neither speaker nor listener, all the while leaving “at hand” relationships starving for time and attention. That attention is never forthcoming because phones, attached to our ears, have actually become thieves. Tragically, we recognize neither the thief’s presence … nor the treasures stolen.
How easily we’ve fallen prey today to the warning my parents imparted during my growing up years, “Don’t sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”
But today? Immediate rules and reigns. And what we so readily call ‘a blessing’ has in fact, through excessive use, become abuse. Grievously, it has left in its wake a neglected generation of peoples … neglected children … neglected spouses … neglected homes and work places. That lost time of togetherness can never be regained … and it slips away so fast we don’t even note its passing, until it’s too late.
Some future day, as analysts try to again determine the cause of family (and societal) disintegration, I fully expected to see cell phones and cordless phones listed far above TV, computer games, internet, and all the other sundry technical ‘blessings’ to which we’ve become addicted. Instead of building honest relationships, phones have actually become tools to avoid building the very relationships that are suppose to make up the core of our life.
I think we’d be staggered to calculate the time each individual household spends daily ‘on the phone.’ Even more shaken to recognize that it’s time stolen from the very ones that should consume our thoughts … God, our spouses, and those under our own care … that’s what cleaving is all about.
Looking back to healthier times, women in the neighborhood used to share morning coffee, gather weekly and sometimes daily at quilting bees and such. Community was real and thriving. Lives were truly interwoven. Now we’ve become such an insular people, with phones the main contributing factor.
Do you ever wonder why the church has become such an ineffective light to our world? Why so few lost are being won to Christ today in the midst of a rampaging spiritual hunger? Why the multitude of believers remain babes in Christ?
We don’t even see people any more. And discipleship? It’s been delegated to a dictionary because a little piece of plastic has become our world.
Without question, cell phones and their counterparts have become the most prevalent and socially acceptable addiction to date. You can hardly enter a home without seeing some member glued to a handset (I’m not talking about 10-minute calls); so forget person-to-person conversation with those in the room. And have you taken a look at those passing you on the road lately? A substantial and ever-growing number of cars driven today are directed by distracted drivers, busily chatting away phone to phone, ignoring other people in the car. If the drivers aren’t, then their passengers certainly are.
Moreover, what ever happened to friendly conversation on street, store, or byway? It’s been delegated to a thing of bygone days … everybody’s on a phone, and thus those we pass by and those in our very presence remain invisible, untouched by our lives. I fear it’s one of the greatest tragedies of our times; and the price is yet to be calculated, let alone paid.
Doesn’t it make one stop to wonder what in the world is happening when even worship services find God put on hold due to someone’s ringing phone? Am I crazy? Or do others share these same concerns? Every time I think of getting a cell phone myself, I think on all of this, and say “no way.”
Maybe most perilous of all, reflective thought, that rich soil once inhabited by our ancestors, must surely be categorized with those things now extinct, exterminated by our ever-present phone addiction. When is God allowed time to talk to us? When do we truly take time to simply be with Him? “For You to do” lists, “Fix-it” logs, cataloging “please help” and “I wants” hardly count as talking to God, let alone spending time with Him.
Until this current generation man still turned to the Lord when troubles came, spending untold hours on his knees, or remaining deep in communication with Him throughout his day. Women spent countless hours daily drawing strength and guidance from the LORD to get through the challenges each day inevitably held. The word of God was life, and they knew it; and it never occurred to them to turn elsewhere.
Now? We grab the phone! We gossip about our disappointments and disillusionments, expound on our fears, complain and grumble by the hour (and pity the voice who dares to remind us this has an ugly name, called sin.) The last place we turn, if we ever even turn there, is to the only place where answers reside … to the Sovereign, Almighty God, who holds every minute of our every day in His own capable hand.
What a tragedy! Moreover, we wonder why peace is so fleeting, if we ever taste of it at all. We’ve forgotten it’s found only in one place. That place is not on the other end of a phone, but in the mighty throne-room of heaven itself where there’s never a busy signal, where we have our Maker’s undivided attention, where answers firmly rooted in nothing less than truth reside and freely flow – for He is Truth.
Ditch the phone all together? That’s not what I’m advocating, but I do believe it’s vital to keep them in perspective and refrain from abusing the blessing they can be. Hearing a loved one’s voice puts a smile on any face. But I guess I’ve really been convicted these past weeks about God’s gift of time, and how very much of it I’ve wasted … pursuing the immediate, and in so doing, sacrificing forever the permanent that God would have had me plant.
We can’t leave our children, grandchildren, or their children’s children, or any others we care for, phone conversations. Maybe it’s time, like in days of old, to rediscover more enduring opportunities to discern one another’s hearts, share contemplative thoughts, (and if God is gracious) truly enrich one another’s souls.
Very good point, DeAnna. The part about picking up the phone instead of praying really hit home.
On the other hand, I have been able to get and give so much encouragment and freindship from instant messaging and the FW message board, that I would have never been able to have otherwise. So, like you said, there definitly needs to be a balance. :-)