This week I received an emotional phone call from my daughter who is away at college. She was clearly upset and tearful. Immediately, I assumed the worse and began to pray for the right words to comfort and support her. Then being a mom, my imagination got the better of me and I began to process how I was going to get in touch with either the Dean of the school or the local police. However, Grace began to speak and through the tears she told me that her computer was not working. I was so relieved that she had not been hurt or in a significant catastrophe, that I must have sounded a bit callous to her. “So what’s the big deal”, I said. “Just call up Apple Support and they will tell you how to fix it.” “But Mom, you don’t understand. All my spreadsheets are on that computer, I have a major Chem exam tomorrow, and I have no way to do research or listen to music in my dorm room!” Since there was really nothing more that I could do to help her, I told her to hang up and call Apple. About an hour later, she called to say that her hard drive was messed up and she would have to wait several days before her computer could be fixed. She had a frantic edge to her voice, as if she was preparing herself to go through detox. I told her that I would keep her in my prayers and that at least she still had her iPhone. I am not sure that helped much.
I recalled a similar situation when I was in college and I called my mother to tell her that my (manual) typewriter was not working well. She suggested I get a new ribbon for it. But I told her that the carriage kept getting stuck. My mother just told me not to hit it so hard and maybe it would work better. To make matters worse, I had run out of carbon paper (those were the days before available copy machines and the glorious invention of white-out) and I had several papers due. I remember thinking that life was very complicated and hard that week. Years later when I had to type my thesis for graduate school, I actually got to use an IBM Selective typewriter with a self-correcting key. I thought I had died and gone to heaven!!!!
It is so easy for us to become “slaves” to our technology. At times, it seems that the technology controls our lives, instead of us controlling it. Our lives are so dependent on having the right computer, cell phone, gadget, etc. We cannot image our world without the accessibility of the Internet, e-mail, and social media. Remember the days of landline phones and answering machines as the means to be in contact with someone? When was the last time you wrote a letter and mailed it? Please do not get me wrong – I love the technology at hand and delight in using it to be in contact with people or furthering my knowledge. (I have already downloaded some new books and an app for Lent on my iPad!) However, I do feel that at times it encroaches on the stillness of our souls. There is so much more busyness and interruptions in our lives today as a result of dealing with the immediacy of the current technology. I sometimes wonder what God thinks of all of this!
As we come to the end of the Season of Epiphany and prepare for the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday (March 5th), perhaps it is time to “wean” ourselves of some of our devices and spend more time in prayer, meditation, and dreaming. Take some quiet time each day where no cell phone, computer or device is beeping or ringing. Enjoy the freedom of silence, if only for a little while. Who knows, you might even hear God more clearly and directly. May we all be filled with God’s quiet peace this year as we begin our Lenten journey together.