When I was about fifteen years old I went clay pigeon shooting with some friends of mine. They were standing right next to me talking to each other when suddenly, and unexpectedly the shotgun that I was carrying went off. No one was hurt. By God's grace, I was holding the barrel of the gun towards the grass - now a hole of freshly tilled soil. I still don't know why that gun went off that day. But I do know this, that something so dangerous is not to be handled lightly.
I don't like guns. I grew up around them target practicing, but I don't shoot often anymore. On the occasion that I do hold a firearm something happens to my mind - in large part because of that day. I handle them with extreme caution and respect. Fear surges in my mind at how quickly one wrong decision could hurt someone or myself. The safety stays on. The aim is cautious and intentional. It is not a play thing.
As I have grown older there is another weapon that has gone off. This time more frequently.
With it's ability to be a vacuum for my time, an alternate reality for life's real problems, and a constant barrage of sexual content, my cell phone has become what that gun was to me as a fifteen-year-old. Every time I swipe the unlock screen it is as if I am taking the safety off a loaded gun. All things that I do now need to be proceeded with caution, intentionality, and with precise aim. It is not a play thing.
I am aware that in the modern world hand-held, unrestrained internet access is a reality for most Americans. So let me offer you 3 encouragements for the way you use your cell phone.
1. Limit your time
The average American spends 162 minutes per day on their cell phone between texting, emailing, maps, podcasts, music and app use. That's over a month per year of screen time! (Check out this study from Baylor University.)
Do not be swallowed by the vacuum of entertainment. Spend your life and time aimed at things with purpose. Aim to go home and serve your spouse or children. Aim to invest your life in someone to teach them the good news of Jesus. Aim everyday to live for something. The opposite of this is to be aimless, something which cell phones can cause so easily with endless rabbit trails of links.
"Make the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:16)
2. Be intentional with your phones
Do you ever find that you pull your phone out to look at it even though you have no reason to? Guard against this type of compulsive behavior. When you take the safety off of the phone make sure that you aim at something safe. Don't wander. Every road on a cell phone if traveled long enough leads to sin. I don't think that is exaggeration.
When you need to look up something do it, then get off quickly. Don't let quick errands turn into long excursions.
And don't only be intentional with what you do with your phone's content, be intentional with what you do with your phones physically. Consider placing them in a certain location when you get home and leaving them there. You can check them when you need to and then place them back and move on.
In college the temptation to look at pornography was so great that I physically charged my phone anywhere accept for the plugs near my bedroom. When I was tired was when I was most susceptible to stumbling.
The phrase 'spend your life' is right. We are spending our limited time - do not waste it.
"One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless." (Proverbs 14:16)
3. Make you phone less about yourself.
We live in an age with incredible abilities for connectivity with others. Unfortunately, we live in a selfie world where most of the content that we consume is centered around serving ourselves.
Christians should flex this great technology to help others see and savor Jesus.
Keep informed with what is happening with the world, with frontier missions, and Christian persecution. Set reminders on your phone to pray for people in need. Stream a podcast on the way to work and listen to sermons by awesome dead guys and then share them with a friend. Read great gospel content with blogs like TGC. Memorize scripture with great apps like Fighter Verses. Share and live the truths you find.
Let your phone be about God.
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works," (Hebrews 10:24)
The reality is that the safety on a smart phone is never on. Guard you heart. Guard you eyes. Guard your time.