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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

When Your Right Hand Causes You to Sin: Part II

You haven't expected to hear from me? It's true. I'm in the process of writing a book. And have I mentioned that the editor has asked for a first draft by August 1? This would only seem overwhelming if you've given a thorough look at the calendar. I've only gone so far as to count the weeks that remain until the end of the school year.


I take this to mean that if ever I have needed habits of personal discipline, the moment is now. And I want to share with you how I'm learning to steward my resources of time and energy, even love, as I work to meet this deadline.

Several weeks back, I wrote a post called, "When your right hand causes you to sin." I regret if I left you all imagining that I was on the brink of some moral crisis or poised for some terrible scandal. I didn't mean to worry you, and there's no abnormal reason to fear. All the biggies are intact (marriage, kids, my personal spiritual life.)

What I was really referring to in that post were my habits with technology. I was finding myself increasingly distracted and edgy. I was growing obsessively convinced that I should be paying attention to something - and this something was usually my twitter feed and not my children. I was facing the contemporary glut of information and the invitation to participate (read! comment! have an opinion!), and it resulted in a clutching panic.

It's true that I am inclined toward anxiety. I feel it almost normal when my chest tightens as life grabs hold. I life with worry - although I can't ever say that I really know why. My fears are the kind that lurk in the shadows - indiscriminate, without shape or form. I know that technology isn't my problem, per se, but it sure was feeding it.

I also recognized, in my self-tethering to technology, a growing cynicism. Petty jealousies grew up as I began assuming a reflexive incrimination of the motives of others (writers, usually). The articles I read, I begrudged, feeling competitive, feeling ugly, never ever wishing anyone a success beyond my own. Twitter, Facebook, blog reading: they were making a hater out of me.

When your right hand causes you to sin.

I like to be good at the things I do. And it just so happens that the thing I do now is write and write publicly. So I am facing this about myself, learning as I go and admitting along the way what I don't yet know and who I have not yet become.

So I made this confession, first to friends and now to you. I don't think I'm afraid of confession. I actually embrace it. I think confession is the way to beckon grace into your life, the way to really start living into the Jesus way. It's unnerving, yes, to stand in the lingering realities of your brokenness. But it's also the best place for seeing Jesus.

I also think that confession has a way of moving you into change. Start admitting what's going wrong - how you're going wrong - and begin the work (a work initiated and sustained by God) of repairing it.

In my wrestle with the smartphone then, I decided I first needed to listen again to a series of lectures that have been really influential in my life, especially in considering what is the best use of technology in an embodied life. Read Mercer Schuchardt, Associate Professor of Communication at Wheaton College, has a Ph.D. in Media Ecology. He studies the historical and present effects of technology on our lives, and he approaches it with a theological commitment to the incarnation: the belief that our lives should be embodied in our place and in present relationships.

If God came and pitched his tent among us, maybe that actually means something about the importance of being present in space and time.

I found some really helpful content in the lectures and was talking about them with a friend who has been asked to write a book on this subject (I hope she does!). I promised her a copy. Then I thought to post them here, thinking they could also be of help to others. And now I've written this entire post only to realize that the files are too big to upload.

But here's a consolation prize, though: go to Dr. Schuchardt's profile at Wheaton's site. You can listen to one of his chapel addresses as well as click on some links to interviews with him. I think he has a wise critique of technology that reminds us of the Faustian bargain we make every time we use it. We need to discern whether what we gain is greater than what we give up.

When your right hand causes you to sin.

I've officially deleted facebook and twitter off my phone, and I've moved my mail button to the very last screen. These are my small steps of change, my small reconciliation to the redemptive project Jesus is doing in my life. I am called to be a writer, and this is first and foremost about cultivating my attentiveness for God and His Word. If there are things that do not contribute to me living into this calling, then it is best amputated.

I hope this for you, too: when your right hand causes you to sin, that you'll cut it off.