Disconnecting to Reconnect

My husband, Jay, and I take an annual weeklong vacation each December. In recent years, we have discovered how much we enjoy short cruises for part of that week. When we cruise, we especially look forward to being able to legally disconnect from phones and the Internet.  That is, no one really expects you to email or call when on a cruise unless it is an emergency. After all, Internet and phone charges on cruise ships are pretty expensive! On our most recent cruise, to our surprise, when we boarded, we were informed that Internet was now available to us for free. We looked at each other and in non-verbal language that only married couples possess said, “No Way!”  We committed then to stay electronically disconnected for those few days.

For three days we talked to each other, sat on our balcony watching sunsets and moonrises in silence, discovered how bright the stars shine, how big stingrays can grow,watched movies together, and reveled in the peace of removing ourselves from the cacophony of our busy lives.  We didn’t even pull out iPads to play games or read on the Kindle. Hello, good ole, turn-the-pages magazines!

When we awoke on our debarking day, already docked at the port, we hesitated for just a moment before powering up our phones once again. What we discovered was a temporary electronic disconnect led to a wonderful reconnect with each other and the world in which we live.

I was reminded of this lesson again reading a recent article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram that reported political candidates are rediscovering the benefits of old fashioned “block walking.” As one candidate states, “You can send them a flier in the mail and they may look at it,” he said. “But if a campaign worker — or a candidate — knocks on your door, offers to answer any questions, gives you a spiel and asks for your vote, that’s better.”

I have found this to be true in teaching as well. All the Internet tools and online education delivery systems, do not take the place of person-to-person connection. This may be odd to hear from one who is teaching at an institution that is “full steam ahead” with flexible access learning delivery systems. Just this semester alone, our online education opportunities are reaching women in multiple time zones and multiple countries. And though the learning opportunities are more accessible, I spend more time answering emails and taking telephone calls from my online students than I ever did from my in-class students. Getting the content is one thing, but the desire to make a connection is another.

Ministries are actively using social media, blogs, and other Internet tools to reach women. Large church ministries are in multiple locations and are dependent on media, electronic, and Internet tools to keep everyone connected. And yet, I hear from women’s ministry leaders, in spite of all the electronic bells and whistles, the next generation of women is craving personal connection and personal touch.

Has the lure and ease of social media, mobile phones, the Internet, and electronic communication lulled us into a false assumption that electronic connection is the same as human connection?

As a women’s ministry leader, an educator, and a wife, I have had to remind myself:

  • Email, social media, and text should be used to communicate facts, not build relationships.
  • Communicating electronically is wimpy when a situation dictates face-to-face communication, though uncomfortable or inconvenient.
  • True mentoring and discipleship happens life on life, not Facebook-message on Facebook-message.
  • Texts do not trump the personal conversation happening in front of me.
  • Posts on Facebook that include Bible verses, YouTube links to sermons or Gospel presentations are not the “easy way out” for witnessing to the lost.

There is a time to disconnect in order to reconnect.

  • There is no electronic substitute for a real hug when a friend has experienced a deep loss.
  • There is no electronic substitute for the pleasure of kneeling alongside someone as she prays to receive Christ.
  • There is no electronic substitute for lifting my eyes and seeing the beauty that is around me.
  • There is no emoji or emoticon that can substitute for the laughter of a child or the ornery twinkle in a husband’s eye.

True, electronic tools help us in our daily lives. We are avid online shoppers.  Siri has helped us find our way home when we took a wrong turn, and Facetime enables us to stay connected with young nieces and a nephew. But, guess what? When we disconnected the world kept turning even while Jay and I sat on our balcony talking to no one and taking a deep breath of life.