Sometimes when God nudges us to make a change, we make that change and then slowly over time notice the benefits. Other times, God gives us an immediate indicator that we are heading in the right direction. That happened for me this week.
If you read my recent post, Margin, you know that I decided, while reading Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe: making room for sabbath, to turn off my phone from 8pm to 8am every day. I made that decision just two days ago while sitting right here on this futon doing my Bible study. I blogged about it then went through my day. I got home Tuesday night, played all my turns on Words With Friends, checked Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, then turned off my phone a bit before 8.
I wasn’t quite ready to go to bed, so I sat next to my husband on the couch, crocheting and watching “Bizarre Foods” (I only recommend watching this show if you would like to curb your after dinner eating — yuck!). We watched and laughed at its ridiculousness. Then, I crawled into bed and, as usual, settled in to read.
Typically after an evening of watching TV and constantly checking my phone, I can read for thirty to sixty minutes before falling asleep. Not Tuesday. Nope. I got into my comfortable position, opened my book and made it through two or three pages before I had to surrender to sleep. I slept hard.
Then, I woke up around 7:15am. Usually, the first thirty to sixty minutes of my day are spent in bed checking email, messages, Facebook, etc. But it was 7:15, and I had made a commitment to keep the phone off until 8am, so I crawled out of bed, showered, made my breakfast beverages, and dressed for a day of Bible study, teaching and tutoring. Around 8, I checked messages, emails, etc. I noticed that I had missed a call, so I messaged the friend who had rang me, talked to my husband for a few minutes before he left for work, then settled in to prepare for Bible study.
The phone rang. The same friend called to explain why she had called — to talk through the fact that her day was not going the way that she had planned. She’d had an interruption that was causing her to spend an extra two hours on the road to retrieve an item that had been left on our campus. I commiserated with her then hung up to go back to my Bible study about margins.
I started reading then thought to myself, “You’re dressed.” Yes, that’s right, I was dressed and ready to leave for Bible study and I didn’t have to leave for another 30 or 40 minutes. I turned back to my reading.
“You know, you could get that item and meet your friend half way.” That one wasn’t me.
How do I know? Because I argued back, “but I’m supposed to be at Bible study in half in hour.” I went back to my reading.
“What would happen if you were late?”
“Well, I’m always late.” Yes, I picked up my phone, made arrangements, and started driving.
So, here’s my analysis of what happened. If I had not decided to add in a margin to my life — some white space — by turning off my phone from 8p to 8a, I might have still been lying in bed when the friend called. I would not have been dressed. I would have been reading Facebook posts and playing WWF. I wouldn’t have had the space in my day to drive twenty minutes to help her out. But, I did make that decision. I did put the margin in my life.
And the very next morning after making that decision, God provided a tangible reward — an opportunity to use that same time, the time I’d been filling up, to help a friend.
You might think that my friend is the only one who benefitted. Not true. The whole time I was driving I was thinking to myself, “Really? You’re gonna respond to my decision that quickly? You want to affirm this decision that strongly?” I was flabbergasted. I was stunned to notice God working in my life in such a way.
And here’s the nugget, guys. I noticed because I wasn’t face-down into my phone. Yes, this is hugely convicting and embarrassing. I have spent far too much time in my phone. I’ve known this. I just didn’t want to make a change.
And, I’ve got to be real honest here and say that it’s been just as hard as I thought it would be. After 8pm last night, I kept mentally reaching for my phone to check for messages, see if everyone was ok, or if I’d missed anything. I had to continue to remind myself that I had already turned it off for the night and that everyone would be ok without me for twelve hours.
The hardest part, however, wasn’t the lack of checking in, it was the awareness of all the thoughts I have routinely shoved down by occupying myself with my phone. With my phone turned off, lots of ugliness creeps to the surface — regrets and questions about how I have parented/continue to parent, worries about finances, personal insecurities, and all sorts of stuff I have chosen not to think about. With my phone down, I can not ignore these nagging concerns. I am forced to look them in the face. It’s not pleasant, guys, to look at all that stuff. It makes me feel yucky. I don’t like feeling yucky.
Last night after I put my book down, I closed my eyes because I thought I was ready for sleep. I was tired, but as I lie there trying to sleep, the ugliness started playing out on my mind screen. “Ugh,” I thought, “why!?!?!?” I felt overwhelmed. In desperation I said to God, “Is this real? Is my memory real? Please replace these images with what is true!”
Did you see that? I didn’t shove the images down. I held them up to God and asked for His reality check. Why was I able to do that? Because I’ve put a margin into my life. I’ve left some white space, expecting that He will step in and fill it. I am acknowledging that the story I am writing is rough and needs the hand of the Master. I need Him to speak into my life — to offer encouragement, correction, and guidance. I haven’t been leaving room for that. I’ve been writing all the way to the edge of the paper.
I’m a mere two days in, guys, but this change is so important that God is already dramatically stepping in. It’s like He’s been standing by waiting for the opportunity.
I Samuel 3:10
“Speak for your servant is listening.”