I recently saw a post all over social media that caught my interest (to read that post, click here). This post essentially encouraged parents to do away with their smart phones so that they could focus on being more present with their children. While the post is good and even Biblical (i.e. the whole Matthew 5:29 idea: “if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away”), it does not get at the root issue. Personally, I was shocked when I read the list at the end of the post of ways parents focus on their smart phones in place of focusing on their kids. I know I am not at all exempt from this, moments of checking my email or social media when my focus should be elsewhere; however, I was still shocked at the examples listed. I didn’t realize how self-centered and lacking self-control parents were being in regards to their smart phones.
It was this realization that started stirring up a few thoughts inside of me. It seems that the smart phone really isn’t the culprit. It seems that the real problem are hearts that are self-centered, lacking self control, and ultimately wrapped up in idolatry (and really an idolatry of self more than an idolatry of a smart phone). This current smart phone issue is reflective of other issues: the cause of drunkenness is not actually a glass of wine nor is the cause of gambling the cards nor is the cause of gluttony the food. Those objects in each example are simply the thing that is being placed as central in someone’s life. Each of those sin areas is an example of idolatry of something other than God. The smart phone is often not just an idolatry of the phone itself, but often an idolatry of self due to so much of oneself (email, music, social media, entertainment, other interests, etc.) being logged in one place.
A smart phone does not cause a parent to lose focus on her children; rather, a self-centered, idolatrous heart in a parent causes her to lose focus on her children. The parent who does not focus on her children because she is too busy being caught up in a smart phone reality is a parent that is self-centered, lacks self control, and is ultimately idolatrous. That parent is worshipping herself and her smart phone. I know this is a brutal truth (even for my own heart to hear), but it is the very real truth.
While it may in fact be helpful to get rid of your smart phone so that you do not continually face the temptation of being drawn away from your children, please do not simply stop at getting rid of your smart phone. Prayerfully ask God to redeem and restore your self-centered, idolatrous heart. If you do not allow God to transform your heart, you have only dealt with the external reality by getting rid of your smart phone. By not dealing with your heart, your heart still has a self-centered pattern, which can easily and quickly be transferred to something else. There are plenty of things that can clamor for your attention, beckoning you away from your calling to love and train your children (which is ultimately meant as an act of worship to God). If you struggle with having self-control in regard to distractions and self-centeredness, then simply getting rid of your smart phone will not change your heart, it will only remove one venue of distraction.
Stop and preach the Gospel to yourself. Recognize that God has a plan for how we love and train our children. Admit that you have a self-centered, idolatrous heart that would rather be focused on yourself than on your God-given calling toward your children. Ask Jesus to cover the debts that you’ve created by focusing (i.e. worshiping) your phone and yourself, asking Him to transform your heart. Invite God to come and make you and your family new by learning to live according to His plan for how you love and train your kids, knowing that how you build your family is mean to be an act of worship to Him.
And certainly if your smart phone is too much of a distraction…get rid of it. Just please don’t stop there. Deal with your heart, too.