It was one of those days where I would start to consider all the steps I would need to take to quit. I was just tired. I didn’t have trouble studying; I could do that in a group outside of the bookstore. I didn’t have any issues at work because there I was surrounded by people. It was telemarketing so there were plenty of people talking. [I apologize if I call you during dinner time, it was how I paid for my dinner.] Dorm life wasn’t was too awful. Even though my roommates got on my nerves at times at least, the place was never quiet.
I thought I enjoyed being around people but on this day I realized it was something different. It wasn’t my love for people that dictated my schedule but my fear of ever being alone. I didn’t want to be alone, ever. I didn’t want to have to deal with the silence. More specifically I didn’t want to be alone with myself. It was the questions I would ask and answer when no one was around that I wanted to avoid with everything in me.
As I drove up the hill that overlooked the men’s dormitory I was frustrated to see someone sitting in the place I wanted to myself. [No it wasn’t Jesus. This story is not a spinoff of the Shack] Sitting there obviously praying was my friend Ryan. I would typically be glad to see Ryan because he loved to laugh and talk. He would help me make rooms loud. He would help me make rooms a place where it was hard to think about anything other than the conversation we wanted to lead. But today I was tired of keeping up that act.
As I began to talk with Ryan, I realized he had a deeply rooted joy that I was missing. I thought he might be running from something as I was. But I learned he was running to Someone by being alone. The thing I feared was the thing he craved. He had come up there to be alone with God. Even though Ryan and I looked very similar out in public, we had radically different views of being alone.
Often I would feel anxiety when I drove from the campus to the dorm or from the dorm to my work. I would have to make those drives alone. I would often feel a deep sadness during those times. After my encounter with Ryan that day I began to ask God to help me enjoy the silence. When I was alone, I would ask him to help with all the thoughts of regret, loss, and confusion that was always bouncing around my heart and head. God helped take my greatest fear and redeemed it. I began to realize I was never alone. He was very much with me.
So what does this have to do with phones or electronic devices? Well, you guys are going to think I am old when I tell you this but I did not have a phone or any electronic device at this time in my life. I guess I probably had a scientific calculator somewhere. But that wasn’t going to connect me with the noise and amusement for which I became addicted.
I had nowhere to turn. I had to be alone. I had to feel silence from time to time. If I had an opportunity to avoid it I would have probably taken it. If I had a phone to make phone calls or play videos from in those rare moments when I allowed my schedule to become empty I might not have learned the value of being alone.
When I see teenagers walking around wearing their headphones, I would be curious to what they were listening to on their phone. Now when I watch them bebop [old person term for walk] down the hall, I wonder what is it they are trying to avoid having to hear. What thoughts? Whose voice? What event? We must stop running at some point and deal with the issues of life.
Your phone helps protect you from ever having to feel alone. It keeps you from the “just me and God” moments of life. It goes to bed when you go to bed, and it wakes up only seconds after you do unless it’s your alarm than in that case it gets less sleep than you.
Next time I will give some advice on how to tell your phone that it has taken on a role that you never intended. Today I just want you to acknowledge with me that you are running from one group to another trying to avoid the silence. Sometimes you find noise in life other times you have it to find it on your phone, but you always find it because you always have to have it.
Here is what I would like to ask for you to do. Let’s find, make, steal or whatever it takes to get 20 minutes alone. No phones. Just you and God. Hit pause on the noise.