Technology Sabbath
Posted on October 2, 2017

On Sunday, September 17, I shared with our Marble family that I will be retiring from here sometime next spring. The years have passed so quickly, and every minute here has been a blessing and a privilege for Page and me. Now, I find myself imagining what life might be like post-Marble. A good deal of that, obviously, will depend on how I choose to construct it.

For example, there will be no meetings. I’ve been attending meetings for 44 years since finishing seminary. Some were important. Some occurred simply because they were on the calendar but seemed to have no other discernible purpose. All along I knew it was part of my job. After next spring it won’t be, so I choose not to attend meetings any more. That is not a critique of those who enjoy meetings, nor is it to deny their very frequent importance. As Sly sang, “Different strokes for different folks.”

I won’t have to wear suits and ties as often. I’m not going to donate all of them because I hope churches and civic groups will invite me to preach and speak. If so, I’ll need some sort of wardrobe other than jeans and knit shirts. But, casual will be my go-to attire.

There are lots of ideas I’m working on for the next iteration of being me. Many, I suspect, will evolve as I travel those new roadways. One idea, though, is already percolating, and that’s what I actually want to write this blog about.

We are all familiar with the biblical discipline of Shabbat (Sabbath) – a scheduled day to rest from our endeavors, to restore, refresh, and renew. The Sabbath is a time for moving more slowly, thinking more deeply, and relating more authentically. So, with that in mind, I am thinking about establishing a Technology Sabbath – one day a week in the future when I will not access anything virtual. No e-mail. No social media. No cell phone (unless it is to literally make or answer a phone call – but no use of apps and no texting). Did you know that the average cell phone owner spends 200 minutes a day using the phone for purposes other than conversation? Three hours and twenty minutes a day to text, check e-mails, play Word Warp, look at Instagram, etc., etc. How many of us have walked into restaurants where we spotted a family or a group of friends at a table, all of them glued to cell phones and none of them actually engaging with one another?

What’s the worst that could happen if we put a cell phone away for a day and also decided not to spend any time on the iPad or laptop? “I wouldn’t know what’s going on in the world!” Seriously? Have we ever heard of newspapers, televisions, or NPR? “I wouldn’t know what my friends are up to.” Really? How about a phone call, voice-to-voice communication? We used to do it all the time. “I wouldn’t know what’s trending on Twitter?” And, the point of that remark is...? For starters, Tweets will still be visible tomorrow. And anyway, at what point in history has Twitter become a reasonable source of information? How much can we learn about anything in 140 characters or less?

What’s the best that could happen? Maybe spending time in nature and actually looking at things like grass, trees, water, birds, and sunlight. Or, maybe spending time with friends or family and actually realizing how-life giving it is to interact with people without the barricade of a screen or a keyboard. Maybe reading a real book with pages that you turn, each one holding mystery and the promise of insight and information. Maybe exercise, which is hard to get on a cell phone and brings energy, vitality, and health to life. Maybe time spent in prayer, meditation, and self-reflection, coming to know both God and self better and more intimately.

You know, I don’t have to wait for retirement to do something as wise as honoring the Sabbath. And, it seems to me that accomplishing Shabbat purposes can be done by establishing a Technology Sabbath. Give it some thought. Better yet, give it a try. My guess is you’ll miss nothing of key worth and may find a lot that brings life to your years.

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