It was Memorial Day. The idea was, we'd wake up, eat breakfast, buy tubes, and float the San Marcus River. And besides a couple of miscalculations and forgotten items, that's exactly what happened. We were on the river by 11:30, skin slathered with sunscreen and fresh water bottles ready to be downed by five dehydrated girls. Not even five minutes in, and we were completely relaxed (good company and some sun can do that). Every now and then we would have to push off of the muddy edges of the river to center ourselves or lift our bodies to avoid sharp rocks. But other than that, floating the River was the move, the perfect start to Summer.
A perfect start, though, short-lived as it was followed by me dropping my phone into the River an hour in.
I reacted as most would. Initially, I thought of, like, four bad words to express my anger, my filter only allowing a G rated version of one of those words to be spoken. In a panic, I tried to salvage the 6s, knowing full well the revival of the ancient tech was a lost cause. Never the less, I persevered, all the way home until I was left to surrender the block of metal and glass into a bag of rice, along with my denial.
For the first couple of hours, I was fine. The 3D world was full of things to keep me entertained. But by 8pm, six hours after the water damage was discovered, it was time to work out. And with no music, I wasn't excited.
I remember the beginning moments as anxiety inflicting: I mean who knew your breath and the sound of your feet hitting a black conveyer belt could be so loud? (I now understand people's warnings concerning the level at which I listen to music.) And without the distraction of bass-heavy wavelengths, I was left to actually notice the pain that flooded my calves, the tightness in each muscle I neglected to stretch the day before. Not to mention, when it was time to do the circuit portion of my workout, I could no longer rely on pre-made workout plans with built-in timers that I could mindlessly submit to. But despite my hesitance to begin that quiet workout, it actually ended up being one of the most productive sessions I had ever had.
Now, why do I tell you this? Why do I spend my time typing out a story of when I dropped my phone in the San Marcos River?
Your first thought might be, "Well Jenna, we're so connected to our phones these days that maybe you just wanted to give a PSA to get outside more and cut down screen time". And to that my answer is "yes", obviously. But I think that's a given.
Instead, God let me in on a different truth.
Within that hour span of time, I was forced to hear my body work, to acknowledge the pain in my legs, and to focus on the logistics of my workout. It was hard, there were many times where I felt like quitting. But by the end, I felt so much more accomplished because I knew I listened to my body and did the work well.
Applying these concepts to life (because God is just so cool and intricate like that), I realized that I hadn't been living life with a water damaged phone- literally and figuratively. Literally in the way that I had been with a phone, deaf to any noise and numb to pain during my workouts. Figuratively in the way that I had been trying to block out the sound of God's voice in my life about the situations and choices I faced. In the way that I had been ignoring the pain from past relationships, the pain from present circumstances, and the pain from future uncertainties. (Pain as in both physical and mental pain. The "tightness in your chest, keep you up at night" type.) I was numbing myself to it all.
And lastly, figuratively in the sense that I was distracting myself from what I knew I had to do. All productive things like my blog or college apps or reaching out to friends or reading my bible or sitting down with God in prayer. I would avoid it all with social media, sleep, or Netflix. I mean you name it, it was probably a distraction.
It was like I was afraid to listen to God's voice, afraid to acknowledge the suffering and pain inside me, afraid to buckle down and focus on the things that needed to be done.
But what I realized in the silence of the Monday night workout was that it's necessary to be "phoneless".
God promises change and growth, but He does it in silence, He does it when we have a water damaged phone. Because we need to give the "OK", we need to surrender our phones to bags of rice every now and then. He's not going to try to share your attention with other distractions. To receive the maximum blessings from Him, we need to meet Him in silence.
Now, put down the glass of water, I'm not telling you to soak your phone or else you won't be able to evolve in a positive way.
But to put this into practical terms, I do think it's necessary to expose yourself to silence, stillness, a phone free, distraction-free, no pressure space. A place and time where you can give your all to God. Because I can tell you the Bible app on your phone where Instagram notifications pop up or the coffee shop where that cute boy/girl works or the kitchen table where your siblings or mom or dog comes to plea for attention or your bedroom late at night where your unfinished chemistry homework calls your name are all spaces where it's just not going to do it for you. I want to praise you right now for your effort, but also I want to emphasize this truth that God laid on my heart.
Our society is built around the idea of distractions. It is calibrated to steer your focus off of things that aren't postable. Self-confidence, productivity, deep conversation, fellowship, time spent with God, time spent alone, hikes in the woods, cooking with your mom, calls to your grandma, dancing in your bedroom, picking up an old hobby of drawing or rollerskating or reading. And since we are aliens to this world through Christ, we are called to contradict and turn away from those things that society distracts us with. Which I know, is hard.
I urge you, though, to never find yourself becoming a native or a local to this world. Throw off anything that hinders you, and settle down to listen to God's voice and do what you gotta do to be right with God and yourself again. If it takes throwing your phone in your pool, so be it.
Author Priscilla Shirer sums this up well in her book Discerning the Voice of God; How to Recognize When God is Speaking when she states "But the listening that God requires is active, intentional, and aggressive... That's why unrushed times with God are essential to hearing His voice and discerning His will... Until we intentionally discipline ourselves to be still and listen, we'll miss most of what he's saying" (Shirer 26-28).
Step into the silence. Receive blessings.