Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in a ministry outreach experience with other chaplains from around the country. What we did was an incredible experience for me on all levels, and I could reflect on many aspects of that experience. But today I am reflecting on what I had to do to get to participate in that one day experience. Because of where we were going, we were not allowed to have our cell phones. Now I am not talking about just turning them off, we had to physically leave our cell phones at home that day, in fact the only thing we could take were our IDs and car keys. Talk about a bit disconcerting to think about going a whole day with out anyone being able to contact me.
Even before this opportunity I had been thinking about how “plugged in” we as a culture have become, myself included. And part of that thought process has been about what being so “plugged in” does to our spirit. That perhaps there is also a down fall, a “spirit drain” so to speak by staying so connected to the constant barrage of information that technology gives us. I have thought maybe it would be good to “unplug” for a while, yet have never made an effort to do it. That is until about two and half weeks ago.
As I prepared to go on this ministry outreach, I found myself realizing that since I got a cell phone about 12 years ago I have not left my house without it. As I thought about leaving my house that day without my cell phone, I got a bit anxious. What if something happens and someone needs me. What if my car breaks down on the side of the road on the way to meet the other chaplains? These were possibilities, albeit very remote possibilities, but the thoughts got me thinking about how much I have come to rely on having my phone, on being able to be reached at any time of day, any where. My reflections on this in the weeks since the event, have me realizing that I had to engage a very important spiritual principle, that of trust. I had to engage trust in those I entrusted the daily duties I was stepping away from to carry them out with out ever needing to call me. I had to trust in my own ability to handle a crisis, and I had to trust in the generosity of those around me, if I found myself in need of a phone. I had to trust that my world was not going to have a major crisis just because I was out of contact for a day.
Thinking back now, I am realizing that something incredible happened. After I got past the initial anxiety of walking out the door, I found myself the most relaxed I had been in a while. I did not need to worry about the phone interrupting me. I even found I did not even have a desire to turn on the car radio – I was content to truly be started on my time away for the day. I was able to for the first time in a long time to completely and fully engage another person without either of us having any distractions. I ended the day feeling more refreshed and connected to my colleagues and the people we encountered that day. I also realized just how much energy is drained from me by being constantly plugged in to all the technology available and by feeling that I have to be available to everyone in my life, all the time.
Having just had this experience, I would suggest that we each could benefit from a set time where we literally walk away from all our technology and spend some time with those we love and value without a single distraction. Or perhaps it is time that you need to spend with just yourself, to let yourself truly rest and let your spirit find complete silence and restoration.
Technology is a good thing and it does keep us connected. But it can also be a huge distraction. It is a balancing act. For me, I found a new balance by “unplugging” for a day. Perhaps you too, might find the courage to “unplug” and experience the benefits that can bring.
Oh, and in case you are wondering – that day everything went just fine. Those caring for my daily duties did wonderfully and did not need me, I got to the event and back just fine. And yes, I did end up needing to make a call, and I did find a phone to use. And really the world did not end just because I disconnected for a while.
The other day, my family and I went to the pool, and you know where our cell phones were – at home, and it was GREAT!