I recently heard about a survey done by the Yellow Pages that asked a large sample of people when they use their cell-phones. They discovered that, for most people surveyed, the first thing that they do in the morning is check their phone, and it is also the thing we do last before we go to bed. In a twist, only 3% of people said they used their phone in the restroom…because we are all liars.
The Yellow Pages surveys also found out that the average person spends 8.5 hours on Facebook. Think about that stat for a second, that’s over a day a week that we are working for Mark Zuckerberg.
When I heard about that survey I had one overwhelming thought:
I’m tired of not being where I am.
Sometime in the mid 90’s I signed on to the internet and I’m not sure I ever really logged off. I spend much of my day typing symbols of letters that are digitally translated on to a screen that I’m staring at. I read many of my books on a Kindle, today I will Skype into a conference where it will appear that I’m there while actually being hundreds of miles away.
I spend way too much of my life going from one screen to another, looking at projections of reality, mistaking the shadow for the substance. And irony of ironies, most of the time I’m talking/writing/reading about a God who became flesh.
One of the stranger things about the way Westerners view time is that we are all think of ourselves as “Time Poor”. Which is probably not a phrase you use often. You probably think in terms of being stressed or exhausted, but underneath this way of life is the idea that there isn’t enough time in the world.
Driving our assumptions about how we spend our life isa view of time that goes absolutely against the Christian faith, mainly the idea that you only live once. So prove yourself, exhaust the moment, squeeze all the life that you can out of the moment, because it’s not going to come again.
Ironically the idea that You Only Live Once has lead to not really being able to live well.
The preacher John Ortberg once asked the great theologian Dallas Willard what one word was that he would use to describe Jesus, and he gave a word that I thought was surprising.
Willard said “relaxed”
What an interesting way to think about Jesus.
Most of the people reading this probably wish they had more time, but Jesus’ relationship with time was one of the greatest gifts He gave his disciples, one that I think He still wants to give.
Chances are you have a clock on your wrist or wall, you have a calendar close by and a way to organize your life. But birds are never late, the animals of the field don’t keep time, they aren’t worried about growing old, and Jesus repeatedly refers to them as if he wishes his followers could be more like that.
I like the way the graffiti artist Banksy recently said:
Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.
Life of Panic
In the day Jesus was born, there was a Roman god named Pan, who was worshipped in certain places even in Israel. Just a few days walk away from where Jesus did most of his ministry, and one day Jesus took his disciples down to the very area where people worshipped Pan to teach them about the Kingdom of God.
He told them that the kind of movement that He was starting was going not going to withdraw from these types of places but invade them. Pan was a half-goat/half-man god, and the place where he was worshipped (Caesarea Philippi) was cave that they thought was bottomless, they considered it a Gate to the underworld.
And the reason people worshipped Pan was because they were terrified of him, they were always worried that Pan might come out and get you at any time, which is where we get the word panic from.
And Jesus marches to this place and says, I’m going to start a movement of people that are different than this, but they are going to be among places like this.
Jesus says things like “don’t worry about tomorrow” and calls our attention to the way God cares for the flowers. Jesus repeatedly tells us in a variety of ways that to follow him is a light burden.
Which raises the question, who am I becoming more like Jesus…or Pan.
In my life I have seen the Sistine Chapel, I know what Michaengelo’s painted room smells like, I’ve seen the Gas Chambers of Auscwitz and the Catacombs of Rome, I’ve walked Mars Hill and seen the Parthenon and the Pyramids, I’ve felt the wind on my face from Pike Peak and I’ve felt the tears running down my cheeks in room full of girls rescued from sexual slavery, I’ve ridden an elephant in Thailand, a camel in Egypt and a horse in Jordan.
I’ve had more opportunities than I ever thought possible, and I look back on these memories with great gratitude and not a small amount of student loans, but I’m starting to hit a point in my life where I no longer wish I was there. I’m realizing that what I really want is to be present here, in the same way I was there.
I’m tired of my children reflexively repeating themselves 3-4 times because they know that their daddy isn’t really listening. I’m tired of catching my mind wondering from the person who is right in front of me to wondering about what interesting news might be scrolling through my Twitter feed.
So as a kind of Public Service Announcement, Leslie and I are attempting to simplify our life. I realize that as a preacher I can’t invite people into a good life that I don’t have myself.
Over the past month, I’ve made some adjustments to my life. My iPhone is now really a glorified flip phone, I have no way of doing much beside calling and texting, and contrary to the advertisement I always hear, I feel like now I’m more connected.
This may seem too much for some people, but I’d love to invite you to try it. Because I’m tired of wishing I could be somewhere else with someone else.
I wish I was here.