The Heart of the Matter

Every time I open my phone, he knows exactly what I’m seeking.

Like many things, there’s an undeniable presence of redemptive qualities that come with our unprecedented access to one another. I think many of us are trying to get this social media thing right. We’re thankful for the gift of connection it offers but when we’re honest, we see what a grip it can have on our affections, which are supposed to belong first to Jesus and then to the people right in front of us.

 

In 2015, photographer Erik Pickersgill took a series of photos capturing people in the midst of everyday life: eating at restaurants, driving in a car, sitting in their homes, visiting friends, or enjoying a vacation in a beautiful setting.[1] He didn’t pose his objects or ask them to stop and smile; his goal was to capture the reality of the moment in all its genuineness: just people, like me and you, doing what they do every day.

And then, he made one single edit to every photo: he removed each smartphone or tablet.

The results were strange. Awkward and yet common. I don’t think I realized it until I saw the phones removed, but the familiar eyes down, thumbs up pose has become so normal, because most everyone around us has a small, bright screen in their hands. But seeing that same pose in these everyday moments without the screen, I couldn’t help but think this is really not normal. I immediately wondered: if this photographer captured the mundane and routine days of my life, how often would he catch me looking down?

As a mama of three little ones, neck deep in the “mommy, mommy, look at me!” stage, this question became particularly piercing. The hours of my day are spent in the company of three people who do not yet know how to tie their own shoes, but all three of them can manage an iPad without a problem. So, I began to really examine my—or rather, our practices. I started to hold up my heart and my own familiar patterns to scripture, and I quickly realized my scrolling habits were far more indicative of a woman enthralled with both my own online presence, and the seemingly glamorous lives of others, than with the gospel. I could very well fit in to the category of people Jesus rebuked when he said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,”[2] because while my words—even my Instagram posts—might say one thing, my heart and my time would give me away to another.

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