My dad would often tell a story that not only involved me, but served me as a constant reminder of what’s really important in life. The story goes like this: I was four or five years old and the son of a Pastor. When the worship service would end, my robed pastor-father would recess to the back of the sanctuary and greet folks as they left. I would go back there with him, stand in front of him, and pull the folds of his big black robe around me so that nothing but my head was showing. . . kind of like a baby kangaroo in a pouch.
One Sunday morning, an older woman in the church bent over to greet me after greeting my dad. My dad says she looked at me and said, “Good morning Walter! Do you love Jesus today?” . . . which is, by the way, one of those test questions people like to ask the children of people in ministry. My dad says that without giving it much thought I fired back, “No, I hate Jesus!” The woman – who was most likely a bit stunned. . . like my father – was bright enough to follow-up. “Why do you hate Jesus?” she asked. I answered, “Because. . . he stole my daddy.”
If I remember correctly, my dad shared this horrifying little vignette with my mom later that day. After processing the comment, they came to the conclusion that maybe my dad was spending too many nights away from home immersed in church meetings and ministry busyness. To my great benefit, my dad quickly informed the church board that there would be some changes in his schedule.
Even though I don’t remember the actual incident, I do remember my dad telling the story. I also remember my dad being around as I was growing up. Both of those things are great blessings for which I am deeply grateful. There are lessons in there for all us. . . as husbands, wives, fathers, etc. And lest you think that those lessons are only appropriate for people serving in ministry, think again. It’s a far-reaching lesson for us all. . . particularly in today’s wired world.
I thought about this the other night as I was speaking to a group of parents as part of our new Digital Kids Initiative at CPYU. We chatted about how habit-forming and time-consuming our obsession with technology and staying connected can become. It can happen without us even knowing it. For example, how many of us spend loads of time being physically present with our family members, but emotionally, relationally, or attentively-detached. . . yes, even while sitting together in the same room and on the same couch? With electronic device in hand and/or in our laps, our attention is divided in multiple directions as we post updates, tweet our every move, and obsess over what’s happening in the lives of our followers and friends.
Is technology “stealing” you? Do you fret when you’re not connected? Do you find it increasingly frustrated to un-tether? Do quiet, solitude, and silence bother you? What would your spouse or children say is you asked them, “Do I have a problem?”
Why not take some time today to ask those difficult questions? Take stock of the time you spend with your technological tools. Take a look at your Facebook page and consider how much time you’re spending/wasting. If you’ve got a Twitter account, look at the number of Tweets you’ve been sending. If you’re staring at a six-figure number, chances are you’ve got some issues to deal with.
Way back in the 1960s Marshall McCluhan made a bold statement: “We shape our tools and afterward our tools shape us.” Not many people listened to or understood McCluhan. Sadly, even though history has proven McCluhan right, very few people are listening today. I don’t think we want to listen. Perhaps we’re too busy posting updates and composing tweets to listen. But not heeding the truth of McCluhan’s warning means that there’s some thievery going on. Sadly, the decisions we make cause us to be the perpetrators. The victims are those closest to us. Pray that the people closest to you will speak up and say the hard things you need to hear.