It was a beautiful, balmy, perfect summer evening last Saturday. You know, one of those iconic summer evenings where the sky started off a hot bright blue and it all melts down into a cool, gorgeous sunset.
I’d had a wonderful evening dining at one of my all-time favorite restaurants with two great friends.
I was celebrating the spiritual victory of having completed our church’s ministry certificate program.
I’d even jokingly posted on our church’s FB page that I know I needed to watch out for spiritual warfare after a spiritual victory (a common pattern revealed in scripture; eg. the defeat at Ai of the Israelites after winning big at Jericho; Peter’s being told by the Lord, “Get behind me, Satan!” probably minutes after he declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”).
We took pictures outside to memorialize the event. We talked some more and hugged and left. I was so content. This is the life, sang my heart as I stopped at my favorite gas station and fueled up for the week.
At home, I had already finished my blog article for the next week before I left for dinner. I was getting ready to make a meme to go with it when I made the horrifying discovery: my cell phone was missing!
I tried not to panic, but I dumped my purse twice frantically searching for it. All my emails and social media were tied to my phone number. Oh, why hadn’t I saved a list of codes or installed an alternate phone number, like I was advised? Oh, the torture! So the drama begins.
I drove back to the restaurant. They hadn’t seen it.
I remember the last time I saw my phone, which was on a ledge in front of the restaurant, right by the outdoor archway where we took our pictures.
I sorrowed. I panicked. It was too late in the evening to stop at one of my phone provider’s outlets and see what to do next.
I hoped against hope that someone would turn my phone in. Though it was an old 5S iPhone, it might be of value to any thug who just wanted to make a quick buck. The worst part was I’d just paid it off! And I didn’t want to upgrade to a new model because I still don’t like the camera specs. My biggest concern was the dozens of photos I’d taken that morning from our graduation, or pictures downloaded from my friend’s phone of a birthday celebration last month in a beautiful garden with an awesome tea room. Pictures I hadn’t bothered to back up on my cloud that afternoon as I was finishing my blog article.
Well, I went to bed on time.
I woke up Sunday and read my Bible first thing, like I used to do regularly.
I made it to my Sunday morning prayer group on time for a change and let my fellow prayer warriors know of my dilemma. The empathizing, knowing glances told me they understood. I saw our singles pastor and told him what had happened, in case he or anyone else from our ministry team had tried to contact me. Then I went back to the restaurant after church to see if anyone had turned my phone in.
I sat back, dumbfounded. I stopped the phone service using my landlord’s phone. I went to one of my phone provider’s outlets and got information on how to replace my phone using my phone insurance. I still had to pay 27% of its retail value! Really?!?
I stopped one page short of filing a police report in the city where I lost my phone, but something made me hope against hope that I would get my own phone back. My day went into slow motion as I pondered my options about my phone and my options about my life.
I reflected how my life went in the last 18 hours, the analysis of an idolatrous fixation. What am I learning, right here and right now?
I was irritated with myself for leaving that stupid phone on that stupid ledge, except it was stupid me that left that stupid phone on that stupid ledge. Ok, I know it’s not all stupid. Humans do human things. But why didn’t I just put it in my purse, like I usually do? I had to kill the If Onlys and trust the sovereignty of God. I chose to rest instead of obsessively revisiting last night and berating myself for leaving my phone.
When I returned home phoneless Saturday night, I felt dejected. I felt disconnected from the human race because I couldn’t access my friends. Or they, me. Surfing on the web definitely did not fill the void of fellowship. I was too emotionally attached to this electronic idol at the end of my fingers. I was depending on my phone and social media way too much to connect with others.
I realized how much my life schedule revolved around social media. This weekend, I cleaned my bathroom and did laundry in a timely manner.
I started thinking, what else is God trying to show me through this whole incident? I could clearly see there was much room for improvement in going back to seeking the Lord first thing in the morning instead of reaching for my phone to see if anyone had texted me last night or early this morning.
I had let my phone become an idol to me, a source of affirmation and connection and inspiration, instead of the Lord. I read several articles Sunday by Christian writers who have discovered the same thing, and have posted some great questions, concerns, and cautions for us in Christ’s community to ponder as technology continues to grow exponentially and press on in its take over of the world.
Once again, I confessed my idolatry to the Lord and asked for wisdom to reorder my priorities aright. I gained a peace that transcends all understanding as I reflected on His providence and how not a big deal it would be for me to start over with a new phone. I praised and worshiped Him, determined not to let this incident steal any more of my joy. And I would give it one more day before I ordered a new phone.
I got to work Monday morning on time. After a few minutes, I got a VM from one of my two dinner friends saying she’d found my phone in her purse! Our purses look very similar—same manufacturer, same color, with matching pouches but on opposite sides—and I’d put my phone in the flapped pouch of her purse, not mine. What a relief it was to make arrangements to pick up my phone after work! God is good, I thought. And you’d better believe I made some adjustments!
I had to reset my phone last month and didn’t back up anything except my contacts and my earliest photos. I fixed my cloud to make sure that was taken care of. I had a security app on my phone originally that I forgot to restore after the reset, so I put that security app back on my phone. When I finish my blog, I get it scheduled in my blogging program, no matter how busy I am. Back up all photos as soon as I ever get home. Now for the two really important learns:
First, keep my eyes fixated on the Lord, not my phone. Devices don’t make good gods, so dump that idolatrous fixation and keep my priorities right. I’m working hard to break myself of the habit of looking at my phone that first hour after I wake up. And I will add, not in that last half hour before I go to bed!
Secondly, go back to spending more time looking real people in the face and talking to them, not my phone. In a culture and a world more relentlessly driven into corners by technology, real conversations will stand out. We Christians ought to be the ones initiating more of those real conversations with real people. Technology may drive us apart, but it cannot change our hearts—we need human contact. Remember the baby monkey experiments (http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/studies/HarlowMLE.htm ).
May you have the courage to repent of any idolatry you may have committed in elevating your technology to the status of a god and find your way back to the one true God and the human side of the human race.
Halloran, Kevin. 15 questions to help Christians follow Jesus on social media. For Unlocking the Bible website 9/26/13.
Powell, Frank. 6 really bad ways Christians use social media. Frank Powell blog article 9/10/14.
http://frankpowell.me/6-bad-ways-christians-use-social-media/ accessed 6/25/2016.
Rainer, Thom. Seven positive ways Christians can use social media. Thom Rainer website article 8/16/14.
Samudre, Neal. 8 things Christians need to do more on social media. Relevant magazine article 3/25/15.