Here’s the background information you need to know—I adore butterflies. For as long as I can remember God has used the delicate wings and brightly colored pigments of butterflies to woo my heart to His. That’s why when my husband surprised me with a trip to a butterfly house near our home, I was near giddy.
After several minutes of examining butterflies with a gigantic magnifying glass and talking to my children about God’s ability to create, I sat down on a bench next to a fantastic specimen with gorgeous white wings. I looked at her for a minute and then . . . I checked my email!
Here I was surrounded by one of my favorite parts of God’s creation. It was a rare opportunity to sit in relative silence and take a break from the noise of my busy world and the pull of my computer screen. Yet, I chose instead to fix my eyes on junk mail and Twitter feeds.
What is wrong with me! Why am I so willing to exchange connection with the natural world, human relationships, and a living God for the “unnatural” realm of technology?
I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought if I hadn’t just read this thought-provoking post (on breastfeeding, of all things) by one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies. He writes, “Satan hates what is natural and good; he loves what is unnatural and evil.”
It’s a good reminder that this love affair I am having with anything with an on/off switch has spiritual implications. I’m not saying, necessarily, that Satan is the force behind all of our iStuff, but I do think it is wise to remind ourselves now and then how much the Enemy desires to fix our eyes on anything other than God’s work in the world around us and in our individual lives.
It’s crazy, but I would almost rather play with an app about butterflies then sit still, be quiet, and look at an actual butterfly doing what God made it to do. That moment in the Butterfly Palace was just the wake-up call I needed to realize that when it come to my technology, all too often I exchange the natural for the unnatural. The result is that I develop artificial feelings of well-being, attachment, and wholeness that are cheap substitutes for the real thing that can only be gleaned from my living God. Technology isn’t a bad thing, but more often that not, it is simply giving us the illusion of connection, experience, and growth, and the whole time we think we are sampling the real thing.
I know we don’t need one more reason to feel guilty about our technology. We know it hurts our eyes and shortens our attention spans and causes us to gain weight around our mid-section. But maybe the secret to taming our technology isn’t in developing a new set of rules or in separating “good” technology from the “bad” stuff. Perhaps the better lesson is the realization that anything on your screen is a just a substitute for the real thing. Go ahead, use your technology to enhance your life and work in practical ways, but as you do ask yourself, “am I exchanging the natural for the unnatural here?” Does my technology usage do damage to my connection with my living God, human relationships, and appreciation for all God has made?
Go ahead, ask yourself these hard questions and then, put the iPhone down. Walk away. And chase a butterfly.