Seven Ways: Ruling over Screens Crouching at our Door

Over the next few weeks I'll be doing a series of posts on seven ways we try to rule over the crouching presence of sin in our home. I'll expound on our methods for engaging the gospel in these areas of our lives, the ways we fail, and our hope for the Church more and more. 

None of these things are done perfectly. In none of these areas have we arrived. And in every one of these areas we are prone to wander, to fail, and to forget. One of the best blessings of the gospel, I think, is the fact that it never changes. When I fail, forget, and wander—the cross and the empty tomb never change. The point is not to do these things perfectly, but to actually let the imperfection of my doing them remind me of how much I need Jesus every single day.

. . . 

We choose reading, writing, and talking instead of screen-time in order to engage and flourish as flesh and blood humans.

I would say, of all the pillars we try to build our home upon, this is probably the most difficult and the one that needs constant realignment. Both my husband and I make our living by using screens and we are not immune to the allure of news, social media, and whatever new show Netflix wants us to binge upon (currently season four of Great British Bake Off). One of the reasons in my intro post on this I used the verse from Genesis about sin crouching at our door and the need for us to rule over it, is because I believe Cain tried to convince himself that his offering would be pleasing to God. It seemed like he treated it as a gray area, not a black and white one. That's just conjecture, there's no way I can know for sure, but I've always assumed that was the case. 

Technology can be like this. One side of its coin seems good: connectivity, ease, a medium for enjoyment. But the other side can be not so good: producing laziness or indulgence or jealousy, or a God-complex (the idea of being everywhere for all things). The idea is that it is not necessarily sin, but that it is crouching at my door waiting to become sin. I have to rule over that. 

Nate and I are constantly reevaluating, readjusting, recommitting, re-deleting, and rearranging our priorities around technology. It would be easy to see this as failure, but I actually think, in our current culture, that's a good way to approach this. We are both legalists in our hearts and our nature is to cut a thing off entirely (and in some ways we've done that, i.e. our commitment to not having a television), but we also know it's not sin to watch, for instance, The Great British Bake Off. 

I love how Andy Crouch subtitles his book (my running for best book of 2017), The Tech Wise Family: Everyday steps for putting Technology in its place. The creation mandate is to rule over creation, to take dominion over this garden and we cannot do that if we pretend weeds don't exist. Weeds do exist, and for us, the weeds are not necessarily the screen itself, but the time, content, and emotions the content produces in our hearts. We have to be attentive to being addicted, being anxious, being fearful, fear of missing out, fear of the current political climate, overlooking our community, or overlooking one another. These are the weeds produced in the garden of screen technologies.

So how do we combat these weeds? 

It's not easy. And we fail often. That's not me being modest about our failures. We fail often. We are always circling around this conversation in our home. But: 

We regularly fast from certain things. I use the Freedom App on my phone to block all social media except Instagram all week + Sunday, and on my laptop during work hours. The only day it's not blocked is on Saturdays, which is a work-with-our-hands day anyway.

We have canceled our Netflix subscription no fewer than seven times in two years. Sometimes we just need a break from its temptation.

We do not have a television. (This one seems to get the most response, especially from families who have movie nights or use the television to occupy their kids. I don't have kids so I can't speak to how difficult those seasons are. But I have been a kid and I know from experience that when my parents got rid of our television when we were all little it produced good fruit in me. I know it created more work for my mom, but I'm grateful she was faithful with our young minds—even at the expense of things she probably would have preferred doing.)

We do, however, have a projector and so have occasional movie nights or documentary viewings with friends. We're not against watching content, but we do both find that when we do see a commercial or advertisement, they have a jarring effect on us. As they should. So a projector to watch a movie is a good route for us.

We do not read news on our Sabbath. Our aim is to enjoy creation, each other, and to remind ourselves that God is sovereign over the whole world, our only Creator, our only Redeemer, our only source of true Joy (more on this when I write about our Sabbath).

We do not have our phones at the table at mealtimes. Our aim is to enjoy one another and our food, as the provisions from God they are.

We do not take our phones to bed. 

One of us usually leaves our phone at home during date night and the other uses it minimally (GPS or Yelp).

We have all notifications turned off on our phones. I have always had my phone on silent (except for Nate) and no notifications except text-messages coming through (though still on silent). But this week I finally turned even text-notifications off. There are no red bubbles on my iPhone. I find in myself a sick-slavery to them and that's not what I want to be beholden to. 

These are what the Wilbert family chooses to do. These are not Biblical prescriptives, these are permissives. Doing these things permits us to look up, engage one another, trust God, trust one another, enjoy creation, enjoy our home, enjoy one another, fight the temptation to indulge, fight the temptation to check out.

You have to figure out what things give you permission and space to do those things in your family. Perhaps you have young children and the only way you and your husband are going to enjoy one another is to set the kids in front of PBS for an hour. Perhaps you have a sick family member and turning off text-notifications isn't going to work in this season. Whatever our season of life is, we have to recognize sin is crouching at our doors in the form of screen-technology, how will we rule over it? 

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