I have erased, added, read, and re-read this blog more than any other blog I’ve ever written, and I’m sure you’ll still find many typos (mainly because Word Press keeps undoing all my edits.). I’ve been hesitant to publish this post wondering if it’s more of a “soap-box” than an inspiration, and also because I’m not anywhere near living up what I’m about to say. Not that I live up to the things I say in my other posts, but out of all of them, this one has been one that I struggle with the most. But, since I seem to keep hearing God speak to me on this subject I’m going to go ahead and post it anyway. I’ve also hesitated to post this because what I’m about to address is something somewhat controversial and not something that would be considered a sin. Although it may not be a sin, I am convinced it is a high place.
Let me explain. About 12 years ago, when I was living in the Dominican Republic, (WOW, I can’t believe it has been 12 years!) I remember praying a prayer that went something like this:
“God, I think a lot of my convictions have come more from my culture – even the “Christian” culture – than from your Word. I’ve deemed things as wrong that are not clearly wrong from the Bible, and I’ve accepted things that are clearly wrong because they are acceptable to my culture. Give me a discerning spirit to know the difference between culture and your Word says so that I can live the life You created me to live.”
So what do I mean by high places?
I’m reading through the Bible in a year right now, and have noticed a trend among the kings of Isreal and Judah. Many of them did not follow God, and the few that did follow God, followed Him, EXCEPT for removing the high places.
“Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places” – I Kings 3:3
I have followed God my whole life, but I feel like I still have many high places in my life that to give them up would be extremely counter-cultural and inconvenient. The one I’m addressing today is the screen.
Recently I heard a lady on a documentary say, “We were created to live in 3-D.” It was a simple statement but it really got me thinking and wondering how much we can really project God’s glory and enjoy the life we were created to live by spending so much of our time living 2-dimensionally in a world hypnotized by the virtual reality of a screen.
During one of my nights off a while ago, I sat down for about an hour just staring out the window of our in-law suite at a peaceful, rainy, 3-dimensional landscape. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see only a small section of my kid’s swing-set. From that angle, the swing-set appeared to be sitting in a different direction than what it really was. I leaned out the window a little more so I could see the rest of the swing-set and shake off the weird optical illusion I was experiencing. It reminded me of one of my imperfect high-school drawings where if you looked at it from one direction the buildings I drew looked they were going away from you, but if you looked at it from a different angle they looked like they were coming toward you. As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that all of God’s art is 3-dimensional and all of His works are perfectly accurate. Once in a while, you might experience an optical illusion, but if you look again, you quickly realized it’s how we perceive it that’s off – not the way it actually is. Every vanishing point is exactly where it needs to be, every horizon line in its perfect place, every star as brilliant as its distance away from us, and all objects in the background and foreground of our world are in perfect proportion to their actual size. Everything that God has made, He made perfectly. His math is always right. His science – always proven. His history tested and true, and His art never requires an eraser. He knows exactly how many cells it will take to make your fingers evenly spaced out and functional. He knows exactly how many inches of space to place between our world and the sun so that we do not burn up or freeze. He knows exactly how many water droplets it takes and where to place them in the sky in order to form the perfect sunset. Proverbs 3:19 says, “By wisdom, the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place.”
Yet even though all this has been created for us to admire and enjoy, in today’s culture, we seem to prefer the 2-dimensional world over the 3-dimensional world: virtual reality in exchange for reality; a desire for convenience and ease over the pride of hard work; a preference for the couch and computer in lieu of face-to-face meetings with friends or a local vendor; quick, cheap, and fast in place of quality and authenticity; the destination but not the journey; living to work instead of working to live; quantity but not quality; a Facebook friend over a real friend; a movie about love instead of living love; a screen instead of a scene. Where did life go?
For me, it seems the more I get caught up in the ways of our 2-dimensional world, the more I forget how much I love life. Is this all there is to live for: ease, convenience, how much bang you can get for your buck? Luke 12:15 says, “Be alert and guard your heart from greed and always wishing for what you don’t have. For your life can never be measured by the amount of things you possess.”
I think we’re all in search for abundant life and believe the more we can cram into our lives, or the easier things are, or the faster they are, or the more we get done, the happier we’ll be. But that’s just not reality. Jesus says abundant life is found in Him. “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
I recently went to a home-school conference and sat in a class called “Choosing the Hard Things” by Todd Wilson. He gave several hysterical stories of hard times growing up or with his kids – all of which were hard in the moment, but had been transformed into something really good. He ventures to say that “Hard things are good and good things are hard.” and even that “Hard validates that something is good.” Todd’s point in this particular speech was to encourage parents to endure through the hard times and not give up – not just with homeschooling (though this was very timely for many of us moms who are so ready to be done with teaching) – but also with parenting, being a spouse, or with any other godly endeavors. Gal. 6:9 says “Let us not grow weary in doing good, but at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Now, I don’t think that Todd Wilson really believes that all good things are hard. What I believe he’s trying to do is bring into balance the extreme cultural mentality of: “If it’s easy, fast, convenient, or comfortable then it’s good; and if it’s hard, takes time, is inconvenient, or painful, then it’s bad.”
I too believe that we miss out on so much good – so much life – by choosing the easy road – which really doesn’t end up being any easier at all, but in the long run, actually ends up sucking the life out of us. Often times, taking the easier road also means giving up the 3-dimensional world for the 2-dimensional world.
I have fallen into this trap and have wondered why I feel so empty. Often I find myself thinking: “I miss life.”
I have a “check-list-get-er-done,” kinda personality. Sometimes it just feels more productive to order things on Amazon instead of going to the store. It saves me time and money not realizing that by doing so I’m voting all the local face-to-face vendors out of business. I check my phone for no reason at all on a regular basis just because it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. I’m with my kids all the time without spending time with them. They have become a distraction to my false-productivity not realizing that my false-productivity has distracted me from my kids. I find myself more frustrated with them and the joy of parenting has been robbed by the perceived inconvenience it puts on my “down-time” of movies, TV, texting, shopping online, and yes – even blogging. I feel so overwhelmed but I have few commitments outside the home. I used to be able to carry the load of home-schooling, raising kids, singing on the praise team, being a children’s leader volunteer, discipling new believers, developing relationships with immigrants, all while raising support to be a missionary and doing the normal daily tasks of cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. I have less on my plate now, but I feel more overwhelmed than ever before. Why is that? Could it be that taking one-minute to check the weather for the 13th time, or two minutes to respond to my 5th text this morning, or 30 seconds to update my “Clue” app, or 3 seconds to check and see if I’ve gotten any new updates, or 5 minutes to check my email again, or 2 minutes to update the budget, or 3 minutes to check the news, is all adding up to hours and hours of interruptions that keep me from the 3-D life that is right in front of me? Could this be part of the reason I feel so overwhelmed that I can no longer handle life?
Our culture has said we need things and we need them NOW. This mentality has influenced our communication with others. “Doug” need to know RIGHT NOW “Mike” can bring a dessert to the fall picnic that’s coming up next Friday because heaven forbid he waits to respond until after work and keep people in suspense. We are not doing ourselves any favors by demanding a quick response. All that does is put pressure on ourselves to also be on-call to our cell phones 24/7. We are constantly on-call while trying to live life and I’m becoming more and more convinced that we can’t do both. We either choose living life or living on-call to a screen.
Kyle sent me away a couple of days ago and encouraged me to turn off all devices. Aside from listening to a message online, I took his advice and sat in hotel room journaling, coloring while listening to praise music, and taking a warm bath with lavender salts. Without even thinking, I flipped on the TV before bed, but the refreshing feelings quickly began to sink down the drain of commercials and TV drama, so I quickly turned it off and headed to bed. I slept until I felt rested and got up before my “sleeping-too-long” headache kicked in. I got some breakfast and then headed out to go 3-D shopping.
I wanted to find a bookstore but there were none to be found. I popped into a quaint little store full of charming gifts and memorabilia. I told the lady there that I was trying to find a book store.
“You won’t find any of those around here thanks to Amazon and Kindle.” She said.
“But personally I don’t like that. I prefer to read books with pages so I can write on them and physically turn the page.”
I nodded in agreement and was excited to see I wasn’t the only one feeling the pull back to a 3-Dimensional world.
Later that day, I went for a walk in my parents’ old neighborhood. I got choked up wishing they still lived there as they would have been so close by, not to mention there are a lot of great memories in their Noblesville house. I walked down their old nearby trails past the turtle pond and over a river. I stopped to watch a tiny inchworm struggle to make its way to the top of a post. Then some strange trees caught my attention. They had leaves like poison ivy but they weren’t vines, they were trees. I walked for a while longer and then sat down by a stream watching the water flow over rocks, creating peaceful ripples and a pleasant flowing sound – all while keeping my phone on “Do not disturb.”
When I got home, I turned my phone back on and with that came the noises of buzzing, dinging, and choo, chooing. (Why I ever chose that for a text alert is beyond me). After a peaceful 24 hours, the demonic, anxious feelings began to return, and I refuse to continue blaming kids. My patience began to thin and it wasn’t because Hannah needed a bandaid for the 12th time, or because James’ tummy hurt as it always does, or because Elijah is upset and tattle-tailing on Hannah for saying “I’m going to poop on you!” for the umpteenth time. Yeah, all of those things get really old, but my kids are not to blame for my anxiety, nor the animals, nor my husband – who tends to leave his cowboy boots out right where we can trip on them, nor this house and all the fixups it needs, nor the laundry and dishes constantly staring me in the face, not even my lengthy “to-do” list. . No – these things are not to blame. These things symbolize that life is happening. What does the Proverb say?
Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvest. In other words: Where there is life, there is poop.
The blame is not the things that naturally happen in life but the things that interrupt life from happening. For me, it’s the addiction to the screen.
I’m not exactly sure what to do with this high place of mine called the screen. I would like to just tear it down, chuck it out the window and return to letter-writing, tasteful ball-room dancing, personal visits, charming quaint little towns, and if I’m honest – the horse and buggy. But I’m a nostalgic person and not convinced there’s any place in scripture that says all technology is wrong and it does allow me to keep up with distant family members. I do see however many examples, like the tower of Babel, where a society became so advanced that they thought they could manage life without God. Could the root of my struggle with the screen be the same: trying so hard to feel in control that I don’t need God anymore? Could it be that needing an answer from people RIGHT NOW is reducing my trust in God when He doesn’t give me an immediate answer? Because I can get pretty much any information I want with a touch of the screen, I’ve learned to take matters into my own hands instead of asking God. The screen has become my high place – my idol. Without it, I feel nearly sick to my stomach and panic wondering how I’ll ever survive. I know this because it fell in the toilet once and my response was panic.
What are our high places? How do we tear them down and run after God with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds? I don’t have the answer. Maybe it means getting off of FB. Maybe it means turning off all alerts on our phone. Maybe it means getting rid of our phones. Maybe it means fasting from TV. Maybe it means staring out the window more and admiring God’s creation or “wasting time” watching inch worms climb up a pole or a daughter showing off her new dance move. I don’t really know. But I think it’s worth exploring because I’m convinced that our high places are things disguised as good, convenient things, culturally-acceptable things, things that would cause us to panic if we didn’t have them, things that keep us from the abundant life God has designed us to live.