Even The Dog Knows: Five Ways To Beat Your Phone Addiction

Was it this one? Or this one? Or this one?

What about this one? Maybe this one? Or it might have been this one?

I don’t know which article first made me aware of my phone addiction, but I’ll tell you what really brought it home: my kids. It wasn’t that they had to keep interrupting my train of thought to get my attention.

It was that they had stopped trying.

Oh, sure, they’re kids and occasionally couldn’t help themselves. But, generally, if my cell phone was in my hands, they would ignore me as completely as I was ignoring them.

Yes, that’s terrible. But I’ve started to change. I’ve tried to conscientiously keep my phone in my pocket or on a shelf when I’m at home and the kids are awake.

And I thought I was doing great until recently. We had friends over for dinner and stayed up later than normal. After we realized what time it was, our friends hurried off with their kids and we rushed to get ours in bed.

Once the kids were down, the last dishes cleared, and food safely stored away, my wife and I sat down at the table, held each other’s hands, and, maintaining eye contact the whole time, had a deep and meaningful conversation before retiring to our own rest.

Wait. No, that’s not what happened. It actually went something like this:

Once the kids were down, the last dishes cleared, and food safely stored away, my wife and I sat down…and I pulled out my phone.

Yes, I did.

After a day in which I’d been away in meetings and concerned with my own projects; during which she made sure the kids were cared for, educated, and getting plenty of fruits and veggies; ensured the house was spotless for our guests; planned and prepared a delicious meal for the evening; took care of the ever-growing menagerie that is somehow accumulating on our property; and was a pleasant and gracious hostess…

I pulled out my phone.

Obviously, I wasn’t paying attention but I’m sure that if I had been I’d have seen the look of resignation on her face as she, following my lead, did the same. Not because she’d rather do that than have a conversation with me, but because I wasn’t available for that conversation.

I realized my mistake while waiting for another article to load. But by that time, it was too late to do anything but go to bed and try again the next day.

I woke up the next morning, ready to put the phone down and lift my family up.

Not so fast.

I typically get up earlier than the rest of the crew, so it was just me and the dog. I took her out, wandered around the backyard while she, well, you know, and went back inside. Got her kibble bowl filled, made sure she had fresh water and plenty of toys, and…pulled out my phone.

Do you ever get that feeling that someone is watching you? I got it about five minutes later.

I glanced down from my screen and there’s the dog. Staring at me. With those sad, puppy eyes.

Even the dog knows when a set of glowing pixels is more important to me.

And the fact that even the dog knows that makes me want to radically rethink my relationship with my technology.

I hope that I’m the only one who struggles with this problem. It’d end up being a pretty terrible world if more than one person were walking around giving more attention to a hunk of glass and metal that beeps occasionally rather than to the living, breathing, feeling beings surrounding him.

But in case I’m not the only one, and to avoid that terrible, distracted world from being our reality, here are some tools that have been helpful to me in cutting the umbilical cord attaching my face to my screen. Maybe they will be helpful for you too.

Accountability

Like just about every other life change worth making, overcoming a phone addiction is easier when you don’t try to do it alone. In a previous post, I mentioned a statistic: 8 of 10 commitments fail without some means of accountability.

We need accountability. I need accountability. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this article. That’s why I’ve talked to my wife about my commitment. I shared my intentions with my small group at church. I’ve enlisted others who will bolster my commitment to changing.

You should too.

Freedom App

You know that device you’re carrying around that you’re addicted to? Did you know that it can be fooled into actually helping you break your dependence on it?

There are apps that will remind you to not be on your phone so much. There are apps that help you slow down from time to time. And, if you’re like me with the self-control of a single-cell amoeba, there are apps that will block your use of those apps that are most addictive to you.

My choice was the Freedom App which I use to block social media access on my phone, but there are others out there. Find the ones that put the power of your smartphone to work for you, instead of against you.

Friends, IRL

One of the addictive aspects of your phone that is often billed as a feature is the virtual friendships you can have on social media. People get a high from interacting with other people’s online personas through likes, retweets, shares, etc.

Did you know you can get the same endorphin rush, and an even better one, from interacting with friends, in real life?

Invite some people over for a phone-free evening. Commit to one another that you won’t check up on your digital friends when your flesh-and-bone friends are hanging out. Play games. Eat dinner. Make something. Listen to a music album from start to finish together. Do something that doesn’t involve you being in the same room looking at different screens.

Try it. You just might end up liking it.

Read Books

Phone addiction is built on hundreds of tiny bits of focus being diverted to “just check it real quick.” One way to combat this segmentation of your attention stream is to focus intently on something else.

I recommend books.

Books require you to engage your attention both deeply and over longer periods of time. They require the ability to not just get caught up in the moment but to simultaneously retain previous statements even as you anticipate future developments.

A good book is a great antidote for your phone’s poison.

Let The Battery Die

Turn your phone off. Unless you’re reading this post on it right now, then just pretend. Look at it without the glow of the screen. It may have a nice cover and sleek lines, but I bet you wouldn’t be tempted to stare at it for hours on end, right?

I didn’t think so.

You can achieve this same effect by not charging your phone from time to time. Let it die on occasion. The first time it happens, you will panic, but it gets easier with practice.

Eventually, you’ll want to remember to charge it, but letting it die can help cut the tether it has attached to you.

Your Turn

These are just five ideas for breaking a phone addiction. I’m clearly no expert here, so what is working for you?

Image by Péter Göblyös from Pixabay

Eschatology And Evangelism: Closer Than You Think

Ok, your first thought at seeing that title might be, “what is eschatology?” Basically, it’s just a fancy Christian word for “the study of the end times.”

And, confession time, for most of my Christian life, I hated eschatology.

As a pastor, I feel bad for saying that.

Maybe I should rather say that I hated the omphaloskeptic approach to eschatology that pervaded my introduction to the subject.

But I don’t hate it anymore. Something changed when I, you know, actually read what the Bible had to say on the subject.

What Caused The Change?

I discovered that eschatology is not a matter of chart-making, headline-chasing, or navel-gazing. Instead, eschatology is firmly entwined with THE task of the church: make disciples.

My previous frustration with the subject was grounded in a certainty that the “man on the island” couldn’t care less about the second time Jesus came when he had never heard about the first time.

Eschatology seemed altogether too isolated and ivory-tower for it to make any difference in my life. I proudly declared myself a pan-millennialist (someone who believes everything will pan out in the end without me having to figure it all out) and moved on with my life.

But time spent in the Word of God made me see that the end of all things is intimately connected with the proclamation of the King of all things. There are three passages of Scripture that flipped the light switch for me.

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

I had always read this verse isolated from its context. I thought it was a philosophical statement of the Lord’s patient mercy towards unbelievers. I never realized that it was an eschatological statement of his patient mercy towards believers.

But it is.

Note the object of his patience: “you.” Peter is not writing his letter to unbelievers. He is writing to the church, to believers, to those who are waiting for God to fulfill his promises.

Not only that, but the context moves this statement from being a nice thought about the nature of God to what it really is: a challenging thought about the nature of God as seen in the coming eschatological reality.

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” 2 Peter 3:8-10

The statement is clearly set in an eschatological context! The impact is this: the Lord is delaying the dissolution of all things because he is patiently waiting for his people to spread the good news that perishing is not the only option given to humanity: we can choose repentance and eternal life because of God’s mercy to us in Christ Jesus!

God is merciful to those who are under his condemnation and he’s patient with those of us who have had 2000 years to make sure everyone heard about that good news but who haven’t taken it seriously enough to finish the task.

This text began to spark in my mind a sense that eschatology wasn’t as divorced from the evangelistic task as I had imagined.

But God wasn’t done opening my eyes yet.

Matthew 24:14

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

If Peter connected the dots between eschatology and evangelism for me, Jesus picked up the line and smacked me in the forehead with it.

Matthew 24-25 speak to the coming of Jesus and the events of the eschaton. I knew that. But what I didn’t realize was the Jesus connected the eschaton to the Great Commission. I was used to quoting that “no man knows the hour” regarding the Second Coming, but I was blithely unaware that we had at least a hint at a prerequisite for that event.

Go back and read it again: Jesus says that the end won’t come until the gospel has been proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations. Then read Matthew 28:18-20: Jesus’ last command to the church is to fulfill his prophecy of the gospel being proclaimed everywhere.

Now, I don’t claim full knowledge of where all the gospel has been preached and, yes, I know that many claim that Colossians 1:23 says it has (it doesn’t necessarily say that), but I do know this: Jesus isn’t back yet. And as long as there’s a chance that the reason he hasn’t returned is that the Lord is patient with his church who are slow to preach the gospel in all the world, eschatology is firmly connected to the evangelistic mandate. In other words, if we want Jesus to come back, we should be evangelizing and making disciples.

All this was warming me up to eschatology as immediately applicable and important, but it wasn’t personal yet. That came in the next passage.

Daniel 12:2-3

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Daniel is talking about the end of all things. And I was struck this last week by this passage’s connection of evangelistic effort with eschatological joy. When the dead are raised from the dust it is those who are wise and who have “turned many to righteousness” who shine most brilliantly.

There is a call wrapped up in the Bible’s language of the end times for me to get serious about obeying the Great Commission, both from a conditional and a personal standpoint. We shy away from teaching and thinking this way, perhaps for honorable reasons, but the Bible is clear: our experience of personal reward at in the Kingdom of Christ will be tied to our faithfulness in making disciples.

If I want to truly experience the joy of the eschatological New Heavens and New Earth, I need to be evangelizing now.

That’s the most natural understanding of Daniel, Matthew, and Peter and the witness of the rest of the Bible from Genesis-Revelation. Eschatology doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It is wrapped up with God’s purpose for his people: the proclamation of the Good News that God reigns.

So, don’t divorce eschatology and evangelism. Don’t waste time on fruitless speculation about current events cross-referenced with obscure (and out-of-context) verses supposedly prophesying them. Instead, seek to personally connect the people around you to the life-changing gospel.

And keep doing that until Jesus comes back.

Image by DeSa81 from Pixabay