A few times a year I go off the grid. No Facebook. No writing. No news updates. No e-mail. The first few times I did this, I always wondered the same thing. What will I miss? Will the government pass some new law that I should read up on? Will someone on Facebook say that they’re pregnant? What’s everyone on Instagram having for dinner?
But eventually I began asking a different question.
Even when I’m on the grid, I feel like I do alright at not letting my phone get in the way. I rely on the checkpoints I have set up for myself. I keep the phone away from the table at meals. I let calls go to voicemail. It can be taken care of when we’re all done eating.
A few weeks ago I found myself longing for my kids to finish eating. It wasn’t bed time and there was no place that we had to be. I just wanted to see what was up on Twitter. In my typical hypocrisy, secretly wishing that the kids would finish eating seemed more noble than just picking up my phone.
But I caught myself. I decided to just sit there at the table and watch my kids. I’m glad that I made that decision because it helped me to see what I’m missing when I have one eye on my phone and one eye on my family.
Like the look on my son’s face when he hugs his mom and tells her that he enjoyed his meal.
And two unhurried brothers laughing at the things brothers laugh at.
Or the ridiculous dance my son did when his favorite song came on.
It was all a gift. A gift from a loving Father who likes to see his people enjoying each other.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 (ESV)
I think we can include our phones in that category of gifts. They can make our lives easier and help us to stay in touch with loved ones who live hundreds of miles away. But, like all gifts, they can be abused. Abused to the point that they keep us from connecting with the loved ones sitting across the table from us.
A while back I took a trip to Africa. Before I went, a few people who were familiar with the region gave me some practical advice.
“Leave your camera at home. Someone else in the group will be taking pictures. You need to see Africa with both of your eyes.”
I’m trying to apply that advice in my house. My phone has its place. But there’s a lot going on that I need to see with both of my eyes.
So, like I said, I quit asking what all I’m going to miss during those few weeks out of each year that I’m off the grid.
Here’s my new question.
What am I missing during the other weeks of the year when I am completely plugged in to the digital world?
The answer to that question makes it easier for me to look away from my phone and focus on the tiny gifts that are all around me. With both eyes.
Sometimes you can know everything that’s going on in the world and still not know what you’re missing in your own house.