Spiritual Lessons from a Cell Phone

There is no question that cell phones can be addictive and very distracting to the spiritual life. How can it be that they can offer spiritual lessons? I don’t know if all smart phones do the same things, but here is what mine has taught me.

When I am attending a concert or a lecture or Sunday morning worship, one way I can turn off my phone so it doesn’t disrupt me or others is to put it on “do not disturb.” It is very effective. No messages get through until I turn that off. The trouble is that I forget to turn the do-not-disturb off. There may be messages or calls that I needed to receive that I miss. I wonder how often I have my internal do-not-disturb button on, and I miss God’s call. I am so busy with other things that I will not be listening if there is a word to be heard.

I check my phone over and over again during the day. I look to see if I have received a text or an email or perhaps a phone call that I might have missed. I want to be in communication with my friends and the outside world. I look to my phone for companionship or community and to tell me if I matter. My focus is outward instead of looking within, but people fail me and my cell phone in the midst of my addictive attachment to it fails to work.  It is in listening inwardly, attending to God the Inward Teacher where Love and Truth lie. The apostle Paul encourages us to pray unceasingly. Sometimes I’ve wondered what that means. If I tried praying as often and as intently as I check my phone, that might come close.  My life would have a quiet center, not a collection of ring tones.

Queries:

What helps you listen for the Spirit, and what distracts you from paying attention? When you are attuned to the Holy does that make a difference in your life?

What lets you know that you are loved and valued? What do you love and value?

Prayer:

“You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (Psalm 59:9-10).

For further reflection:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. . . .” (See Mark 12: 29-31).

See the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, Matthew 25: 1-13.

Freedom to Change

I have certain religious and political/social justice ideas that I value. I can be caught trying to change other people to get them to agree with my point of view. I don’t think those efforts ever work.

Recently I had two experiences that resulted in openings. After the Charleston shootings I was talking with a white friend about racism. I caught myself trying to change him.   What I got was resistance and defensiveness. I was frustrated because if white people can’t talk about racism, how can blacks and whites make any progress in racial equality. So I backed off the arguing and somehow I invited his story. What he shared opened my eyes and changed me. No longer was I the one with superior ideas. We became equals. At that point, unexpectedly and freely, he suggested he could change.

On another occasion I was working on a committee trying to develop a statement about how a person becomes a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Friends in the yearly meeting had different ideas. One point of view was that a person becomes a member at birth if one’s parents are members. That understanding was very important to a number of Friends because it gave them such a deep feeling of long-term belonging and being valued. One such person helped us express the idea correctly. Although her “birthright” membership is in a meeting in another yearly meeting where she hasn’t lived for many years, our effort to include what mattered to her left her feeling very affirmed and valued by a yearly meeting to which she didn’t belong officially. Suddenly and unexpectedly she found herself re-thinking her feelings about her membership. A new decision became a possibility.

From these examples I see that we are not changed by arguments but rather by having our persons respected and our hearts touched. The power of God joins us soul to soul as one.

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Queries:

What is your experience of being in the midst of strongly-held different points of view?

What helps you be open to change? To feel free to change? To know that you are God’s beloved?

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Prayer:

Pray with Psalm 131, put it in your own words, until you can feel what it would feel like to be “calmed and quieted like a weaned child with its mother . . .”

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For further reflection:

“Not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came I to receive and bear witness of the Truth, but by being secretly reached by the Life.”   –Robert Barclay, Apology, Proposition 11, section 7

“Beloved, let us love one another . . .” (See I John 4:7, 12-13).