"For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it,
in hope that the creation itself would be set free from its bondage to corruption and
obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Romans 8:20-21
The challenge was easy - or so I thought. My youth group students had been begging for the last three months to go camping. After finding a campsite for us, we set a date, held a fundraiser, and were all set to have a great weekend back in the fall of 2015.
Ironically, the day of the trip, all the boys scheduled to come backed out. I found myself in a situation I never saw coming: a camping trip with FOUR teenage girls, my wife, and me. To say I needed prayer was an understatement! As the girls arrived at the church before we hit the road, all they did was play on their cellphones, their eyes silently fixated on the screen, their thumbs lazily scrolling up and down. After packing up the last bit of luggage, I gathered the girls together and presented them with a simple challenge: if the girls agreed to leave their cellphones in the van ALL WEEKEND (a whopping 48 hours), Roberta and I would give them an ancient piece of technology known as a disposable camera that could take 24 pictures of our trip (we even had to show them what the wheel did on the top to wind the next picture). If they accepted the challenge, at the end of the trip, they could turn in their cameras and I would develop their pictures for FREE!
Once the terms of the challenge were declared, there was a long pause of hesitation and silence. Finally, one of the girls chipped in, "I'll do it!" Her response led to the other three girls following suit. I took their phones, turned them off, and locked them up for the weekend (after letting their parents know they could contact me). We started driving, and listening to their conversations was amusing at first: "This is so cool... I've never done anything like this!" "What are we supposed to do all weekend?" "I guess my boyfriend will be worried about me..." and so forth. However, by the end of the first night, the youth girls began to plot mutiny.
To say the weekend was emotionally painful is being polite. The complaining was endless. All they could think about was getting their phones back. They even began counting down the hours to when that would be. On the way back home, I found myself frustrated. The girls had missed the entire point of the challenge and the campout: LOOK PAST YOURSELF! They had missed all the exciting things to see at Rodney, the Windsor Ruins, Emerald Mound, Natchez, and more. When we returned to the church and unpacked, they were like salivating dogs waiting for their photos developed was eclipsed by the love of their phones.
Do they remember this camping trip years later? Maybe, maybe not. Did anything good come from it? I believe so, but at times, it's challenging to see what good exactly. My former youth students were casualties of a new phobia coined by scientists by Iowa State University known as nomophobia, meaning "no mobile phone phobia". It's the fear of not having your cellphone. Scientists have also discovered that we remember significant life events more without our phones.
The challenge, I think, is easy for you this month: put your phone down and spend time with God, the family and friends He has given you, and so on. Get outside (even when it's 90 degrees by 11:00 am) and spend time in His creation. Look past your Facebook wall, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, because at the end of the day, you're not as important as you think. God is important as you think. God is important, and He longs to have a meaningful, genuine, more than one hour a week relationship with YOU. Let Him. We are called to be so much more and give so much more to Him than our culture tell us. God calls us His "ambassadors of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Does your life mirror that title and the challenge to serve? Are you the latest victim in denial of nomophobia? How many times did you pick up your phone while attempting to read this? Look beyond yourself this month and serve the Lord in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.