Yesterday, my considerate wife made a special trip into town to deliver to my workplace the replacement phone for which I had (impatiently!) waited 8 days. At first, those days seemed like forever, but the more time passed by the more I realized just how much I have become functionally dependent upon instant communication. So I’ve been thinking about some conclusions that are actually just reminders of things I already had known, but not necessarily put into practice. Here are three:
- The Tool of Email Easily Becomes a Slave Driver. I knew that I checked my email often throughout the day, but being without my phone made me realize just how frequent it was. I have never used push notifications for email (that would drive me absolutely crazy); however, checking my email a dozen or more times a day is not much different. Disciplining myself to check email 2-3 times a day is something I need to do. Not only would it loosen the email shackles from my wrists, but it would lessen the tendency to reply too quickly, without thinking through a proper response. Yes, much email communication is simply information transfer, downloading cranial data; but some requires a much more thoughtful—even prayerful—response. Colossians 4:6 applies to all forms of communication: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” If you’re looking for more help in the area of email management, Tim Challies’ article 8 Email Mistakes You Make has helped me.
- Land Lines Still Have Value (at least in my mind). Sometime last year, we discontinued our home phone for the sole reason of reducing monthly expenses. I realize many people made the decision years before we did, but I resisted. Something in me did not want to be disconnected from a physical location on this earth. Think about it. When your friend answers your call to their land line, you never have to ask, “Are you home?” Yes, I know we as Christians are pilgrims in this land. But we do still live here. This is where we live and love and know God. But one of the casualties of our always-on-the-go and take-it-wherever-you-go cell phone age is the very real sense that we belong somewhere, that we have a home, even if it is temporal. We are not to be of the world, but we do still live in the world—a world that contains relationships with others. We live in houses next to other houses filled with real people—all of whom need us to relate with them on an earthly level and some who need to hear the gospel.
- Face-to-Face Communication Is Still Supreme. Phones used to be exclusively for talking. When we all had land lines, we knew that. But now our phones are for texting, emailing, and maybe—sometimes—even for calling to actually communicate using vibrations from our vocal cords. We need to return to verbal conversation; we need to speak the truth in love to one another. Yes, we may encourage one another through texts and emails; I do this and have many friends who encourage me in this way. But nothing beats seeing a face and hearing a voice. Several years ago, a wise brother in Christ encouraged me with these words: “Always try to talk to the person, in person, first. If you can’t, then try calling them on the phone. Your third, and last, resort should be email. Email is by far the most easily misinterpreted, misunderstood form of communication.” If we are called to glorify God in all we do then this includes our use of email. David Murray encourages us to check out this helpful article, Glorifying God and Email.
These are just a few thoughts running through my mind this morning. How about you? How might breaking your smart phone (like I did), losing it, or simply taking a break from it change the way you think, or live?