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Cell Sin

October 19, 2007

by Mark Driscoll

This past summer I enjoyed some great vacation time with my wife of fifteen years, Grace, and our five children. We went to the high desert and spent most of our time enjoying the sunshine by playing catch, swimming in pools, inner tubing down rivers, going for walks and the like. For the first time in my life, I actually did not turn on my cell phone and did not take any calls or emails while on vacation. I made it a full three weeks of fasting from digital demons such as my BlackBerry, iPod, and second cell phone. Within a few days I also stopped wearing a watch and stopped really caring about time and instead enjoyed my wife, kids, and vacation. In short, it was wonderful. Unplugging my technology and simply having nothing on my body that required a battery seemed like a new kind of spiritual discipline for our age that refreshed and renewed me more than I could have imagined.

Being unplugged from my technology also made me more aware of how much lords over us as a beeping, ringing, and vibrating merciless sovereign god. I was grieved when I went to the pool every day with my kids to swim and play catch in the water and looked around the pool only to see other parents not connecting with their children at all but rather talking on their cell phones and dinking around on their handheld mobile devices while sitting in lounge chairs. When we went out for meals we saw the same thing. Parents with children were commonly interrupted throughout the meal by their technology and spent more time talking on the phone than to their family. To make matters worse, these people were actually quite loud and were incredibly annoying to the rest of us who do not want to hear whether or not their friend Hank’s nasty inner thigh rash had cleared up.

Sadly, the trend continued even late into the evenings. At night my kids like to go for bike rides and walks before heading off to bed so we spent our nights doing just that. At the resort where we stayed, it was amazing how many other families were doing the same, but the parents were not speaking to their children but rather chatting on the phone via their wireless headset (which I keep expecting to include an option to be surgically implanted into one’s head between their ears since there is apparently a lot of extra space there).

A recent article confirmed this is actually a tragic national trend and a cell sin to be repented of. An AP-Ipsos poll found that one in five people toted laptop computers on their most recent vacations, while 80 percent brought along their cell phones. One in five did some work while vacationing, and about the same number checked office messages or called in to see how things were going. Twice as many checked their email, while 50 percent kept up with other personal messages and voice mail. Reasons vacationers performed work-related tasks included an expectation that they be available, a worry about missing important information, or in some cases the enjoyment of staying involved (Source: Associated Press, June 1, 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18983920/).

I know in years past I too have been guilty of these same digital sins against God, my family, and my own well-being. Now that I see it as a sin that destroys silence, solitude, fellowship, prayerful listening, and meaningfully and attentive friendship, I am deeply convicted that there is a new spiritual discipline of fasting from technology to be mastered. In this way, we can enjoy the life and people that God puts in front of us rather than ignoring them while we peck away with our thumbs and chat about nothing, which in the end is rarely as important as the people we are ignoring all around us.

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