Each school year, day one, I go over my class rules. Most are predictable:
"When I'm talking, you aren't."
"Feel free to sharpen pencils without asking," etc. None of those cause much reaction.
But then I lay the BOMB on these teens. "All cell phones must be put in the basket by the door when you enter this room." My advanced students get a kick out of watching the incoming freshmen stare at each other, panicked. It's obvious what they are thinking.
"But if my phone is 20 feet away, how am I supposed to reach inside my purse, pretending to get a pencil or Kleenex, so I can text my friend?" "Looks like I'll be transferring to another class."
When cell phones first came out, they were the size of laptops, their antennas could have doubled as television rabbit ears, and many of us swore we would never, ever be so desperate to talk to somebody that we would actually own one. Silly us. As soon as Christmas or our birthday rolled around, cell phones moved to the top of our gift list. It was the one thing our spouse could get us to let us know we were special and they wanted us safe.
I remember the first time I used mine. I was at a Little League game when it began to ring. By the time I unsnapped it from its boxed case, tugged at its stubborn antenna and figured out which button to push to take the call, no one was on the other end. My friend casually turned to me and said, "First time?"
"How did you guess?" I answered.
It took me five minutes to pack it up and put it away. When it rang again, I ignored it. I took it home and set it on the counter where it stayed for the next few months. Not surprisingly, I did fine without it.
As I try to describe to my students what life was like without cell phones, they envision dinosaurs and Neanderthals. When I tell them we used to have to pull over when driving and find pay phones at gas stations, I might as well have described traversing the country in a covered wagon.
To them, there is no life without cell phones. They panic when theirs is misplaced. No surprise there. It's their predominant means of communication, and when my class is over they grab theirs, hoping to find a text or voice mail waiting for them. And then they light up, thrilled to hear (or read) their message, most of which contains little, if any, substance.
Now, I know cell phones have their place. I just believe the attention given to these "conveniences" is out of balance. In the book "Not a Fan," (one I highly recommend), author Kyle Idleman warns his readers that things that excite us have the potential to point to something or someone that is in competition with Jesus, and that is never a good thing.
It makes me wonder what would happen if we needed our Bibles as much as we need our cell phones. What if we were to carry around the Word of God 24/7, sleep with it (as some of my students do their phones) and get excited every time there was a personal message for us?
What if, when we forgot it, we had to go back to retrieve it because we would be dysfunctional without it? What if a 20-foot distance between it and us caused us great consternation?
Think about it.
I realize Idleman isn't writing about only cell phones. It could be decorating, shopping, music, golf, food, whatever distracts us from that which is of utmost importance spiritually.
Those things, however, hit a little too close to home. I think I'll just focus on the evils of cell phones. It's much less personal that way.