“The world is at our fingertips. The problem is, the world is at our fingertips.” My wife said that to me one day. She was referring to the onslaught of the latest apps and smart phones. Our parents didn’t have as many distractions as we do. If they had things to do, they got them done. If a moment of the day was unfulfilling, so be it. There were kids to take care of. A job to go to. Things to be taken care of around the house.
Today we have no shortage of options if we find our present moment lacking.
I recently decided to scan all of my family photo albums so that I could have a digital backup of our visual history. As I strolled through my childhood in snapshots, I saw my parents in their twenties and thirties, raising me and my sister in a world we took for granted. Back then there were three TV networks. The news came on at 6:00, around dinner. Maybe you caught it at 11:00 if you were up that late. But my parents were never up that late. They were up early in the morning, listening to the A.M. radio in the kitchen. There was no Internet, no 24 hour news channel, no email, no Twitter, no social media at all. If someone called you when you were out, they would call back later. You weren’t bombarded with text messages.
The other day I heard a commercial on the radio about an app that helped you manage your fantasy football team. I thought of the hours and energy that grown men were devoting to maintain a fantasy. Whether it’s online gaming, fantasy football, or simply creating and grooming our online personality through facebook profiles and tweets – is it any wonder that we are not prepared for marriage even in our 40s?
We might think that having so much at our fingertips enriches our lives, but there is a pitfall. The idea that we are focusing outward when we pursue a distraction is an illusion if the distraction is a solitary one. Distractions that seem to be social are in fact solitary when they are done through social media. Having so much at our fingertips means that we can create micro-universes of which we are the center. All of our perceived needs are met almost instantly. We send our thoughts out via social networking and receive instant justification. If anyone takes it the wrong way, we can instantly “unfriend” them. It’s too easy these days to become rulers of our own little worlds.
And there are deeper, darker pitfalls. The most perverse form of this is Internet pornography. Nothing is more destructive than the way in which it turn’s a man’s focus in on himself and his own sexual satisfaction.
Once we are used to having everything we think we want any time we want it, are we prepared to sacrifice everything to devote our time and blood to our spouses and children? What happens if we have to give up a few distractions? What happens if we can’t do what we want when we want?
More often than not, when I think of my wife, I think of evenings reading on the couch, walks on spring mornings and autumn afternoons. If we are blessed with kids, I picture us all laughing and learning together.
All of these things will be there, I know, but so will a lot of sacrifice. Those wonderful pictures of the future can be dangerous if I am at the center. There can be no self-centered world where all wants are met instantly. It’s a hard thing to let go of wants. But I’m starting to realize that even if I know what I want, God knows what I need. He wants us to live for others. He lived, and died, for us. By putting others at the center, we become Christ to them.