My Accidental Smartphone Sabbatical

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Blog, Sam | 2 comments

Four weeks ago, I dropped my Smartphone. The screen cracked, and with it, my heart. For the first time in eighteen years, I walked this earth without my constant companion.

Cracked assistant


I’ve had a Personal Digital Assistant since my first Palm Pilot. I loved it. I called it my PDA, though I didn’t mean Public Display of Affection (but the way I waxed lyrical led friends to believe I was in love). It supplanted my long friendship with Day-Timer.

It organized contacts, to-do lists, and schedules. It played MP3s, electronic books, and Bible software. In 2003, when Palm integrated my PDA with a phone, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

I felt great affection for my lovely new assistant, Ms. Smartphone. We were inseparable.

Then, in a heart-stopping crash, she died. I felt alone and confused. Her absence was toounsettling, the death too tragic. I realized something was terribly wrong. So I decided to extend my mourning. For the past four weeks, I’ve lived back in the dark ages. Without a PDA or Smartphone. Not even a Day-Timer.

I publicly apologize for my three missed lunch appointments, all the commitments I neglected, and the texts and calls I failed to return. My personal assistant was cracked.

But that’s not all

I used my phone for everything: email, browsing, tasks, schedules, banking, sermons, word games, notes, photos, and exercise logs. It even connected to my Smartwatch.

I also slept with it.

Now, before you get any weird ideas, I fall asleep faster when I listen to a book on tape (my assistant tells such marvelous bed-time stories). When I wake in the middle of the night, and when my thoughts run wild, I ask my assistant to read another story. Soon I am fast asleep.

So for the last month, I’ve slept without my bed-time bard. And worse, without my middle-of-the-night lullabies. What in the world was I to do as I lay awake at 2:30 in the morning with thoughts tugging in seventeen different directions?

I thought of waking my wife and asking her to tell me a story. But I thought better of it.

I tried praying

I couldn’t rein in my mind. Stray thoughts beckoned to me, and I accompanied them down dark alleys of past memories. (All without my flashlight App to lighten the sinister shadows.)

I decided to meditate, so I pondered on this: “He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). I wondered what the heavenly places look like. I tried to imagine God’s throne room.

I pictured entering a room so huge, the ceiling was beyond my vision. In it was a throne so gigantic that the top of its footstool was higher than the farthest stars.

My senses were overwhelmed. The light was so bright, my eyes ached; the music was so loud, my ears throbbed; the smell of incense so intense, my nose stung. But I felt more.

Someone once said that if we have five sense on earth, we’ll probably have a thousand and five in heaven. Bats have radar to see in the dark, and some fish have lateral lines that feel electrical impulses such as hearts.

I sensed something like a radar that sounded out the immensity of this hall. I felt a throbbing of another heart that astonished with my own. I was aware of a pulsating moral presence that freeze-dried my puny scruples. What were my morals (tithing, keeping the speed limit, being nice) compared to this titanic force for righting wrongs, healing galaxies, and enforcing justice?

I was overcome, astounded, and shell-shocked. I felt a terror like never before.  (Mind you, this was all in my imagination, not a vision or dream, just contemplating on the vastness of God.)

Petitioning the King

The experience—though imaginative—was terrifying. I literally trembled on my bed; I felt the explosive eruption of an inner volcano. I was paralyzed by the menacing danger. (If this was just my imagination. I’m scared to think of the real thing.)

I like to think of God as the caring shepherd, the kindly friend, or as the approachable Abba. Those gentle images are fine, but they evaporated before this overpowering King. He was no tame lapdog. For the first time in my life, I felt awe-filled dread.

And then an old poem came to my mind,

Thou art coming to a King / Large petitions with thee bring / For his Grace and Power are such / None can ever ask too much  (John Newton)

Nothing I could ask for was beyond this Being. Nothing I could imagine would be too great. The weight of my responsibilities? Tiny. Financial woes? Dinky. The lives and safety of all my friends and family for generations to come? A trifle.

I had never seen God for who he is. And when I finally saw him—even in my imagination—nothing in the world looked the same.

At that moment, the only thing I could ever want was to forever believe in this vast limitlessness of God; a lifetime of confidence of the absolute certainty of the magnificence of unimaginable majesty; to never forget that “None can ever ask too much.”

I’m sure I’ll eventually buy another Smartphone, though it can never again hold the same power over my heart. Digital assistants aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Neither are my worries and woes.


2 Responses to “My Accidental Smartphone Sabbatical”

  1. Really good, Sam. Thanks for sharing your life with us. I was captured by your story and view of God. It brought me back from fear to grace. Its actually really comforting to know my dad is one powerful guy… And that He loves me and can handle anything I throw at Him.