To see me now, you might not guess the initial reluctance I experienced with using a cell phone. My progress was slow from owning one at all, to learning to text, to using a smart phone, to now using my agile phone. Part of my reluctance was what such usage would mean – being able to be reached at all times; work emails invading “down time,” making me feel like I am never truly off; decreased patience with others who are not as technologically savvy; and constant usage for everyday needs. I still try to resist looking at my phone constantly – I put it down during dinner time, I try not to respond to emails on my day off, I sometimes wait to look up something until I am at my computer. But I still have those moments when my daughter impatiently waits while I finish one quick text or email to someone. Though I ask her to hold on while I finish, I worry that I am becoming what I feared.
But there are also days when I am really grateful for my phone. I currently have a parishioner who in the last stages of life. The family and I know that the parishioner could go at any time, and so we are keep watch, spending time together, and holding each other in prayer. I am keeping my phone especially close, checking for texted updates or for the dreaded call. I even keep my phone on my nightstand in case I need to run to the hospital overnight. That may sound unpleasant to some, but what I have come to see these last few weeks is that my phone is becoming not just a tool for pastoral care (a way for parishioners to reach me for emergencies), but it is also becoming a tool for my prayer life. When I check my phone and there are no messages about this parishioner, I use the moment as a reminder to pray – pray for the parishioner, the parishioner’s family, and talk with God about the hard stuff of life. Who would have thought that this little phone – a thing which I had once associated with menace, annoyance, and disconnectedness – could also be a tool for deep connection, prayer, and blessing?
What I love about this tiny revelation is that it points to a larger truth. God is constantly working through us in the current age. It may sound silly, but I think God can work through our technology – through my little cell phone – for good, inviting me back into relationship with God, and working through it to connect us to one another. The trick is keeping a watchful eye for God when it could otherwise be easy to miss God. Of course, that is not a new problem. God has been inviting God’s people into relationship from the beginning of time – and we have regularly been resistant. The trick for staying connected is finding those things that help us return to the LORD: whether it is a cell phone, a strategically placed Prayer Book that reminds us to pray, a set of prayer beads that you keep in your pocket, or a regular commitment to church attendance. I wonder what things in your life might be repurposed to help you reconnect with the holy this week.