One of my accoutatability partners (Jon Wallace) sent this to me today from his daily readings. I felt it was so valuable, it was worth promoting to all our families in Athletics. Please take a minute to read..
I love our kids..
We must reflect that, when we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default.
Three small pieces of glass are killing our relationships.
The great threat to your family is not the next presidential election, not the global economy, not foreign wars. The great threat is that you will skim your life and miss the ordinary wonder and magic happening in the most important and sacred relationships God has given you.
In his remarkable book Three Pieces of Glass: Why We Feel Lonely in a World Mediated by Screens, Eric O. Jacobsen has a simple idea with profound implications about the way we show up in our lives. 3 pieces of glass have isolated us from those we love, and contributed to the epidemic of loneliness many of us feel today.
Those 3 pieces of glass are:
The smartphone screen.
The TV screen.
Distraction, escapism, commuting. These are the true threats to the life you long for.
According to Michael Easter in his book The Comfort Crisis, the average American touches their phone 2,617 times each day and spends 2 hours and 30 minutes staring at the small screen. Power users (aka most teens) touch their phones over 5000 times per day. There is perhaps nothing more devastating for our attention and presence that smartphones.
I was once presenting at a seminar and doing a Q and A, when a young guy asked me a direct question. I stopped and looked at him in the eyes to answer. Mid questions he pulled out his phone and looked at it. I simply stopped talking and waiting for him to finish. The whole room simply looked at him looking at this phone and me standing there waiting. He didn’t notice. he simply moved on with the seminar while he was enraptured in his screen. This could be a parable of many of our lives, except it’s our children, wives, and friends, waiting for us to look up
THE TV SCREEN
One study revealed that the typical Netflix user in the US watches 3.2 hours of Netflix a day. Even if you are below that national average, the formative effect of being spoon fed the narratives, values and plot lines of the world begins to shape your mind and imagination. Shows today are designed to be addictive. With so much competition and so many options, nudity, shock value and intrigue are at precision levels to harvest our attention.
I am amazed how much knowledge people retain about their favorite shows. Complex character histories, multi season plot lines, whole imaginary kingdoms have taken root in our hearts. The same is true of sports. Player profiles, statistics, team mates, histories, its truly impressive. Men who can’t remember where Paul’s teachings on fatherhood are in the New Testament can give you the dynasty breakdown of the New York Yankees franchise history, era by era, player by player, for decades.
There is nothing inherently wrong with shows or sports, but when we know more about Stranger Things that the classes our kids are taking right now, the family dynamics of their closest friends, and the emerging complexities of their inner worlds, our priorities have been distorted.
In some ways, one of the silver linings of Covid was the ability to work from home. Though stressful to have kids in the house and the emergence of zoom fatigue, collectively we saved billions of hours of commuting time in 2020/21. Many folks chose to leave urban areas and buy homes in locations they hadn’t considered before, far from the office, farther than they would have considered pre-pandemic.
But in office work is making a comeback. And now many have unintended commutes that make require earlier departures and later arrivals. According to the Census Bureau, the national average commute time in the U.S. is 26.6 minutes, That means as a whole, the daily average American commute time is just under an hour, 53.2 minutes, assuming one round trip.
We take the best energy of our lives, put it in a car, and head into the world. We take what’s left of our energy, get back in the car, and come home.
RESISTING A LIFE OF FRAGMENTATION
Im not trying to be harsh here, I know life can be complicated. But we must understand how relationships work. We nurture the love around us day by day, and it dies day by day. You simply cannot know how powerful small amounts of notice and attention can be in building relationships that can withstand the storm of tragedy, anxiety, rebellion and pain. So what can we do?
Leave your phone by the door when you come home. Have a place for your phone so you can get it when you need it, but it’s not like a crying child. Put your phone "to bed" after a certain hour and don’t pick it up until the next morning.
Take advantage of FOCUS settings on your iPhone, they have literally changed my life. You can choose who you let through at what time, so you are always in touch with those that count on you, but not at the mercy of those who don’t.
Reinvest the time into simply being present and available. Some of my most definitive parenting moments happened because I was there, I noticed what was happening and I leaned in. What
Instead of watching fictional stories, work on living a better one. Become an expert in your kids lives. Know the plotlines of your wife’s heart. Track the key metrics around the call God has for you, not just the cultural realities over which you have little control.
I try and do one "whimsy" moment a day, a micro Bob Goff kind of moment, just something that gets me in touch with a sense of wonder with my kids. This included things like,
Jumping in the car and going for ice-cream in the middle of a winter storm.
Getting on the subway and getting out at a random stop to explore the neighborhood.
Going to the store and cooking a new desert we have always wanted for no reason at all.
(Think make good memories, and visit them often
Learn to love where you live. Pay attention to the lives of your actual neighbors. Most of us will never change the world, but we can help heal our world. We can be good news on our actual street, we can open our doors and invite people in. We can listen to those who ache to be heard. We can contribute in small but tangible ways that reweave the shalom of God into local brokenness. Walter Brueggemann said "Those who sign on and depart the system of anxious scarcity become the history makers in the neighborhood." Being present, being aware, being available, being content. This is how we love a place back to life.
Last week was an insanely busy week of ministry for me. Preaching 4 times, staff complexity as our church grows, board meetings, Elder formation cohort, working on a new book, friends in marital crisis, kids figuring out college, getting a new roof on our place. It felt destined to be an overwhelming blur. But I took some time to walk and pray, to be available, to be open, to love.
I put the phone away, turned the TV off, left the car where it was and simply began to walk, think, pray and pay attention.
And that’s when I met Mike. Fresh out of prison, and keen to talk. Looking for new relationships to rebuild his life and establish some dignity. He showed me his artwork and shared his plans for the future. We joking about motorbikes, marriage, and the nation of Australia. We grieved over prodigal kids, and lost love.
When I reflect on my week, I don’t know impact my sermon had, how my meetings were perceived, if all the efforts of management and organization will help, but I know for 20 minutes on a Sunday afternoon, on the street where our church meets, Mike felt loved and I felt the gift of his longing soul.
Participate in your own life.
Care about a place.
The kingdom of heaven will be found there.
May we present enough to be able to receive God's blessings every single day.