Cell Phone Sabbath (Guest Post by Sharon Seyfarth Garner)
My phone died this morning. Kaput. Chirping out the arrival of a text one minute and completely unresponsive the next. I don’t believe that God killed my phone to teach me a lesson about being less dependent on my phone. However, perhaps God could help me take this moment of adversity and turn it into opportunity – an opportunity to savor a much needed cell phone sabbath.
I used to think I set good cell phone boundaries. After all, I don’t spend more time on the phone than my teenage children, do I? Do I?! Yet, I recently realized that whenever there was a momentary pause in my day I would glance at the phone without even realizing it. All day long I would do quick little checks on email, Instagram and Facebook. And if I recently posted something then I would check all the more often. The ego inside me craves the affirmation of people “liking” what I have shared. Did anyone see it? Did anyone like it? Maybe it’ll go viral!! Sigh – the delusions of the social media driven ego! How did I get so addicted to this little 5.5 inch screen?
I needed to put the phone down, to put my ego down, to put my need for constant contact down. I needed to step out of the world of virtual reality and back into the three dimensional reality of the world right around me. I needed a cell phone sabbath.
So, one night recently when my husband and I were out on a rare date, I confidently proclaimed, “Andy, I am going to give you my full attention tonight. I am not going to even glance at my phone all evening long – no email, no news updates, no Facebook, no Instagram, no mindless games – I’m all yours!” I figured this promise would be mildly challenging, but not impossible. “Easy peasy lemon squeezy,” I thought. Ha!
Little did I know the mild withdrawal symptoms I would experience by cutting off my cell phone usage cold turkey even just for a single evening. Waiting in the car while Andy pumped gas, I instinctively went for my phone – but I resisted. In line for popcorn at the theater, my hand went for my pocket to pull out my phone while I waited – but I resisted. Slipping into the restroom just before the movie started I once more reached for my phone – heaven forbid I should unplug for even just a few moments while sitting on the toilet! Numerous other times throughout the evening, I felt the urge to glance at my phone, but managed to resist the ongoing temptation. The tug of the screen and the longing to check in were far stronger than I had expected.
By the end of the evening, I was feeling smugly triumphant. I had succeeded in not being ruled by my phone for just a few hours. I proudly patted myself on the back, plugged my phone in for the night, savored the silence, and made a mental note that I really should take a cell phone sabbath more often. The next morning, however, I was drawn right back in; texting, emailing, and checking social media.
So, this morning when my cell phone gasped its final breath, I tried desperately to keep things in perspective, but my blood pressure rose. What would I do without my phone? How would people reach me? Would the world keep spinning? How quickly I had forgotten the lessons of my recent cell phone sabbath.
Now, sitting in the silence without my cell phone for distraction, I am reminded of how much I need technological down time. I need sabbath. No, let me reword that, I want sabbath. I long for sabbath. I crave silence and stillness. Without the constant cacophony of the cyber sounds, I am able to listen just a bit more closely for the still, small voice of God. I pray that my cell phone’s temporary demise can be the inspiration for a new routine – the life-giving practice of sacred cell phone sabbath.
“God, help me to embrace a regular practice of cell phone sabbath so that I can be more fully present in the real world, rather than getting lost in the cyber world. Help me to turn my attention to you so that I might have eyes to see your gracious presence in all that I do, in all that I meet, and in all that I see.”
Sharon Seyfarth Garner is a contemplative colorer, prayerful pastor, spiritual director, reluctant writer, devoted family member, lover of the outdoors and aficionado of wood-fired pizza. She is the author of two books that explore coloring as a method of prayer – Praying with Mandalas: A Colorful, Contemplative Practice & Mandalas, Candles and Prayer: A Simply Centered Advent.
In A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” Marianne Williamson writes that “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” In preparation for the launch of my new book, For Sabbath’s Sake (released on October 1st), I asked prominent authors, theologians, bloggers, and ministers to “let their own light shine,” by writing on the joys and challenges of sabbath practices. During this guest blog series, these writers will help us learn from one another, and, in turn, give us permission to explore our own sabbath journeys.
I want to hear from you, too!
Take a photo of yourself—or a selfie—while engaging in a sabbath practice (rest, worship, or a community gathering). Share the photo on social media and include #ForSabbathsSake in your post. Give yourself and others permission to enjoy the gift of sabbath.