Empty Pocket, Full Attention (by Brady Goodwin)
I sometimes leave the house without my phone—on purpose. (Gasp!)
Despite the annoyance of anyone who may try to reach me, for an hour or two each day, I willfully decide to do without the ability of immediate communication or information from the outside world. This means no Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook, no Google, no texts and no push notifications alerting me of the latest breaking news or the game’s score update. The only knowledge accessible to me is the knowledge I already possess.
For many, the thought of a technology-free excursion only brings terror. What if something important happens? What if someone needs something from me? What if I don’t know the exact temperature outside or the Yelp rating for this Thai restaurant? The anxiety can be overwhelming, but I press on into the unknown.
Yet surprisingly, like a cool breeze in August, my forays into a more ancient age (circa 1998) do not end in disaster. In fact, there’s something liberating about being unfettered from the chains made of data plans and touch screens. The trees have more color and the streets more life. There’s a spring in my step as I reach into my pocket, only to remember that there’s nothing there. There’s a comfort knowing that the only conversations I will have in this moment are with the people sitting across from me, not with the newest email in my inbox or the mentions in response to my latest clever tweet (as if). There’s a humility that flows when I realize whatever newsworthy events are happening will not come to my attention unless they happen to me. Otherwise, I can read about them later.
I leave my phone at home because I need to be reminded that I don’t know everything, nor can I. It’s more important for me to know that where I am is where I am, and not somewhere else. I need to see that I am fundamentally limited and that my incessant desire for knowledge says far more about my heart than the supposed dangers of technology. I need the awareness that believing otherwise actually prevents me from loving and knowing others as I should. It perpetuates the lie that I am self-sufficient, rather than a mutually dependent creature utterly reliant upon the grace of God in the knowledge of Jesus.
I’m not saying we should throw all our technology away (I’m writing this on a tablet). There are many benefits that come from living in the information age. But ask yourself: What are the implications if, in our lives as Christians, we are forced to unplug in order to invest in others? Are we so concerned with what we may miss that we miss what’s right before us? Even if it’s only for an evening, there is value in embracing our limitations so that we might minister the presence of Jesus to others.
I’m happy to talk more about this, but I may need to call you back.