“Unplugging recognizes that personal beings are created for personal interaction by a personal God.”
~Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook
Along with the spiritual leaders at the Community Church where I serve as Lead Pastor, in 2016, I’ve been going through a beautifully written book titled Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. The subtitle is “practices that transform us.” The chapter this past week was on the spiritual discipline of “unplugging”, a much needed corrective to the addictive world of electronic-mobile-24/7-media-cellphone-facebook-twitter-instagram-antisocialnetworking world we live in. The statistics on texting and electronic media use per day are arresting. In USA, cell phone owners check their phones on average 50 times a day, and we are spending an average of 5 hours on our cell phones per day. Unplugging? Yeah right! Why would I do that!?
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun encourages the spiritual discipline of unplugging “to be fully present to God and uninterrupted in my interactions with God and others” (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, 85). We unplug by leaving the world of technology in order to be more fully present to God, to others, as well as to our own soul.
The practice of unplugging includes (quoting Calhoun):
- “unplugging electronic devices that interrupt relationships;
- refraining from the use of e-mail;
- abstaining from video recreation;
- devoting time and attention to others without interruption;
- communicating face to face rather than virtually;
- refusing to put sensitive human interaction into electronic form
- not checking e-mail on the weekend;
- having a no-e-mail workday.”
The God-given fruit that comes from such counter-cultural ways of living include (again quoting Calhoun):
- “settling into uninterrupted quiet with Jesus;
- creating space for face-to-face encounters with people;
- freedom from compulsive and demanding nature of technological communication and its toll on the soul;
- freedom from addictions–accidental or otherwise–to cell phones, the Internet, video games and so forth;
- giving the gift of presence.”
Calhoun suggests doing a technology assessment, tracking how much time per day and per week we use our cell phones, computers, or other electronic devices. Then, compare that with how much time we have per day and per week with those closest to us, with our family and friends, face to face. Most of us will quickly notice an out-of-balance way of life, and perhaps be encouraged or nudged to make adjustments in limiting our daily use of these electronic tools which are so recently part of the human experience.
Learning and committing to unplug is not something new. Jesus called his followers to come away from the crowds when they were so harried and hurried they didn’t even have time to eat or rest. St. Francis regularly took time to get away from the hustle and bustle of Assisi, walking up on the side of Mount Subasio to a prayer place. In October 2015, we visited this place, now a pilgrim site, full of tour buses and lots of people snooping in every nook and corner. The place overlooked the Spoleto Valley and offered (in spite of the many people) a look at how St. Francis unplugged 800 years ago, committing his life to lengthy, uninterrupted periods for prayer and meditation upon our Lord. Here are a few photos I took from that beautiful place. Hope you enjoy, and also learn the wise and ancient spiritual discipline of unplugging.