By Athena Brockman
Sitting in church last Sunday, my flashbacks to 2005 nearly felt like time travel.
I was transported to a Thursday evening and had just walked out of Spanish class. I was done with another day of my first college quarter and was happy to escape cinderblocks for fresh air. Soaking in the last few minutes of dusk and walking across campus was so peaceful, but within seconds, I felt insecure and out of place. My head was up while everyone else’s was either down or attached to a phone.
In those awkward minutes I quickly retrieved my stylish flip-phone for no other reason than to look like everyone else, and blend in.
That unforgettable yet minor freshman year experience began a journey into adulthood and into another decade of technology expanding its influence into every margin and extra minute of life.
Today, thousands of blog posts are dedicated to “unplugging” and putting down the phone, being more present, investing in our real life communities and not just those we’ve built online. There’s a widespread challenge to detach and prioritize personal relationships.
Passing our gap time with phone in hand may work well for some of us avid Snapchatters and Instagram gurus, but we are ultimately leaving zero margin for anyone else. We leave no moment to connect with people who we are actually experiencing life next to. Why? Well, because we are the entrepreneur with the painful two-hour long commute and business classes at night, we are the sandwiched generation caring for aging parents and teenagers, we are the busy mom/chauffeur with four kids at three different schools and seven extracurricular commitments a week, we are the family struggling with loss, addiction, or child development issues, we are the young adult faced with college debt and two jobs while trying to make time for both our significant other and our dream of founding a nonprofit, and we are so many other overwhelming combinations that it's easy to lose sight of the value of time between projects and activities.
And with our growing battle to prioritize what matters most, living in community tends to get dropped further and further down the list. In fact, the longer we go without it…the less confident we feel in our ability to live in community.
Of course, technology is in so many ways a wonderful addition to our society. I LOVE my Pinterest time. Our family would not function well without FaceTime. Grandma and Papa would probably move in, if it didn’t exist. And possibly more important than my pins on wreath-making and potty-training, technology has conquered and fueled so many amazing advances in information sharing, philanthropy, medicine, education, business, government, transportation, church and well, the list is really very long.
But, God is watching. And, while he surely loves technology’s positive additions to our lives, He must also have sorrow for communities and people struggling with isolation and all of its ugly consequences.
Thankfully, God outlined the antidote to these struggles long ago. Isolation, loneliness, depression, selfishness, these are not modern problems, they are human problems. The solution to each, the solution that God commands and science confirms, is community.
Harvard public policy professor and social capital researcher, Robert Putnam writes, “School performance, public health, crime rates, clinical depression, tax compliance, philanthropy, race relations, community development, census returns, teen suicide, economic productivity, campaign finance, even simple human happiness - all are demonstrably affected by how (and whether) we connect with our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.”
This is not really news to us, and definitely isn't news to God. Our connections with real people and with community have significant impacts in every area of life.
Pastor Daren’s talk reminded us just how important community is and that God calls us to build, and embed ourselves within community by giving and sharing with others.
The talk challenged us to realize just how often we have gotten in our own way. We have chosen lives committed to busyness, leaving little room for God to redirect us, to change our plans. We struggle to make time for what we so desperately need.
Think about the times you have arrived early, weren't glued to your phone, or abandoned your favorite shows for that event you were shy to attend. It is in those times that we unexpectedly meet someone interesting, get to help a person to their car, return a runaway pet to the neighbor down the street, or receive a stranger's compliment that squashes a month's worth of insecurities.
In the space between...Little things we make room for can become big things for others and ourselves.
For us introverts or those of us struggling to regain the social confidence we let fade, I know the lobby at church can be a stressful time, wishing the doors would just open and the gathering would begin so we could slip to our seats unnoticed. Or the 3 minute meet-and-greet after worship could be some of our most uncomfortable moments of the day. I can relate, but let me encourage you: these generously forced moments of margin often serve as a catalyst for the meaningful connections our souls have been craving.
2 Corinthians 10:15 (MSG) says, “…What we’re hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you’ll play a greater part within our expanding work.” God wants us to realize our role. He wants us to never forget his declaration of plans for us, plans to prosper and not harm, to give hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants us to evaluate how many "loaves of bread" we have amounting in the talents we hide, time we don't share, money we grip too tightly, and dreams we sideline.
Pastor Daren asked the question: “What can we do with our loaves to feed 5,000?”
God calls us to do something that can feel unnatural because of our humanity and our fear. He calls us to give our “loaves” and believe we will not just receive but we'll also see it multiplied.
Jesus promises that, “…your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give—large or small—will be used to measure what is given back to you.” (Luke 6:38 TLB). What would our community look like if we remember that this does not only apply to money invested but also time and energy?
Every day is an opportunity to be generous and see what God can do through us.
We can make room for community and with His help, we can muster the courage to give, show up early and shut off the phone.
- Where will you increase your margins this week and this month?
- Will you join a Home Church and connect there?
- Will you volunteer in the Kid’s Program and impact the lives of our Youth?
- Will you simply sit down and be with God?
I know it's prime sports season with America’s pastimes overlapping AND television shows premiering, but the benefit of technology really is so great, you can show up now and catch up later.