“the Lord said to Moses ‘Go down at once to your people […] for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it…’” – (Exodus 32: 7-8)
It’s 6:30 AM on a Tuesday morning. As you rest peacefully and dream of a glorious snow day filled with hot chocolate, a crackling fire, and craved relaxation, your mom or dad flips on the light and orders you to wake up with seemingly no sympathy. You awake in anger and confusion, as the snowflakes that were gently landing on your head turn into two hands shaking you from your daze. You likely growl or grunt at your parents and immediately rummage your sheets for your phone instead of looking out the window in hope of a frosty ground. While still in a sleepy stupor, you accidently open 3 apps on your smartphone before you get to the Weather Channel. It reads: “Fairfax, VA. 53 degrees. Sunny with some passing clouds.” Dream crushed. You tweet your grumpiness.
The bell rings. You have three minutes to get from the lunchroom to your history class. It’s just an ordinary day at school and you are rather indifferent to continue learning about the Boston Tea Party. Well surprise! “Pop Quiz, pencils out! Mwahaha” your teacher utters. She must have had the same dream you did… You seethe with resentment. After bombing the quiz you hide your iPhone underneath the desk and post a bashing tirade on Facebook with angry red emoji faces and quickly close the app. Two minutes later your curiosity grows, you are itching to check how many likes your new post has, and blindly open Facebook as this process has become so second nature that you can use your eye contact with your teacher as a conniving ruse. You quickly glance at your phone. Zero new notifications. #WhyDoesntAnyoneLikeMe?
As we read in the scripture above, the Lord expresses his displeasure with the Israelites glorifying a creepy, golden calf that they worshipped as an idol. How quickly did they remove their focus from the Lord – the one that spared their lives and nourished their bodies? How disheartening must it have been for God to see his children praying to an object they physically molded in a fire? While we don’t genuflect to a golden calf in a church, I believe society has “programmed” us to fixate our time, effort and worth on things of this world and not on God.
Smartphones are a spectacular innovation. They have revolutionized the technology industry and changed how we view the world. But that’s exactly the problem. What we see on our smartphones is how we view the world because that’s the only lens we look through. According to a study led by Nottingham Trent University (Published in Plos One), the average person spends 1/3 of their waking hours on their devices and checks them up to 85 times a day! We are susceptible to becoming consumed by the lure of convenience and fooled by the disguise of fellowship when we rely upon our smartphones for truth and intimacy.
I know what you are thinking: “Connor, I hear ya but I don’t worship my phone and that’s what you do to idols!” Well maybe worship isn’t the correct word, but I surely have idolized my phone. Not only have I checked my phone at least 85 times a day, but I have crafted posts on social media that have taken longer than an essay should take, sought pride through the number of “likes” or retweets, and become lonely if my home screen was blank. Referring back to my initial stories, we use our phone in a million and one ways, some of which are legitimate, but how often do we mindlessly scroll through newsfeeds and Instagram photos or post things to get the most “likes”? What if we just gave a fraction of that time to God? What if we said, “I love you, God” 85 times a day? What if we allowed ourselves to be “friended” by God? How much different would our lives look? I challenge all of us to spend ten minutes today fasting from our phones and fill the void with something Godly: Prayer, listening to a friend, nature, or helping loved ones. God just wants us to be present to Him and understand that His Love is greater than anything this world can promise – even free Wifi.