4 weeks ago, I started a quest for fresh life hacks and helpful tips on tech usage. It led me into a 4 week detox…that I eventually quit.
“Life change” is a phrase thrown around in Christian circles. It’s what happens when someone meets and follows the risen Jesus. I like the phrase. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport doesn’t take the risen Jesus into account, but thats ok. Go read it! In a general sense, its ideas make a changed life the goal for every reader. The idea is this: make tech work for you, not flat out work you.
What do you value most?
Many of us think of our tech as “can I?” when instead the question is “should I?” For me, before I’m anything, I’m a disciple of Jesus. If you follow Jesus, you view and filter all of reality through this simple lens: Jesus is alive.
The risen Jesus meant my tech use was, and is, subject to His agenda. Jesus earned the title “Lord” — which begs the question: lord of what? Lord of all (See Philippians 2, that title is up for grabs to anyone who conquers death outright — any takers?) That’s my starting point. Jesus is alive, He’s Lord, so he calls the shots — all of them.
The risen Jesus meant my tech use was, and is, subject to His agenda.
Might sound like slavery. Dictators, autocrats, and tyrants don’t give absolute authority a good reputation. But Scripture speaks— Jesus is a good King.(Psalm 23) His disciples are perfectly free, and that starts with freedom from themselves. The fight and tension is walking in that, everyday. The truth is: there’s a part of all of us that likes the slavery we know to the freedom we don’t.
Where do you start?
The bedrock of any real lasting change starts with the realization that you can’t stay where you are. Many times, we stayed put because it was comfortable, but sooner or later, our choices snowball into consequences that poke and prod us to get moving, to stir the deep water, or sink.
Teddy Roosevelt was fond of saying, “If you could kick in the pants, the person responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” Just like Jeremiah, who thousands of years earlier lamented, “the heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
While I can’t exactly pinpoint the “when” — Jesus, marriage, and parenting were three big spotlights that shone on this simple fact: technology had more of a grip than I’d like to admit. Anxiety was given plenty of fuel to burn on.
Can’t we all honestly say we spend a little too much time scrolling, liking, and posting? Whatever circumstances or relationships expose your tendency and drive you to glue yourself to screens, don’t avoid the tension — explore it.
So I realized: I can’t stay where I’m at, and set out to detox for 4 weeks. I couldn’t avoid social media professionally, but I set my personal life up to eliminate as much internet & social media as possible— scrolling, posting, liking, etc. And what I discovered was like finding out I’d been nursing a low grade fever for years.
What’s driving you?
Time is a resource, and most of us are wasting it an average of 85 times a day — which is the average number of pickups for any smartphone user, regardless of generation. It’s not just a “those youths” issue. Where is that time going? Am I getting a return on this investment of time? Begs the question, what do I want to spend time on anyways?
My tech usage was causing me to look for what I already had in Jesus.
I’m a disciple of Jesus, husband, dad, brother, son and pastor. Ultimately aspiring — as I think we all are in various ways — to live a life of significance. Before we confuse significance with fame, lets process “significance” through the filter of the resurrection.
For those who encounter the risen Jesus, a significant life is not dependent on fame, fortune, or even freedom — all things social media dangle in front of us. Jesus’ definition of significance sits deep in the bedrock of a relationship with him. Those who know the risen Jesus are secure because their significance is in their identity as sons and daughters of God Himself. The implication for disciples of Jesus is that “significance” is not something to strive after. Rather, it’s something original to God’s design, that we gave up in rebellion, and yet God graciously reclaims and restores in us through Jesus.
The energy we spend looking for what we already have leaves us blind to what we’ve already found.
So when I say that a desire for a significant life led me to reform my use of technology, I’m saying my tech usage exposed that I was looking for what I already had in Jesus. It’s not a tech issue, it’s a soul issue.
The energy we spend looking for what we already have leaves us blind to what we’ve already found. Imagine the sort of lives to be lived among a people who already have significance? Who don’t live to gain, but to give? I’m not there, but I want that — and I think that comes not from me, but from Jesus, who’s teaching me to define significance in new, resurrection ways.
For now, what I’d like to share is simple: I stopped calling it a detox the moment I realized the detox should be permanent. I’m not saying I am completely ending social media in an elitist-get-on-my-level rant — it’s just that the detox proved what I long suspected of myself, and maybe you feel the same: I was missing out in an effort to not miss out — why go back?
This is part one in a series of reflections on screens & Christian spirituality.