People transfixed by their phones, Hyde Park, London
Photo by Waterford_Man on Flickr CC BY-2.0

The other day I went for walk at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Even though the trees were bare of leaves and there was snow on ground, it was still a place of great beauty.

I noticed something strange, however, about the other visitors to the park. I must have passed at least a dozen other people as I walked the winding trail down the ravine to the river, but they were all standing stock-still.

Had I wandered onto a set for some science-fiction movie, in which aliens freeze people in place in advance of taking over the planet? Or had all these people been suddenly afflicted with a disease that left them immobilized?

No, the reason they were standing as motionless as statues was because they were all staring down at their smartphones.

I started laughing to myself at the ludicrousness of the situation. These people had come to this beautiful park for a reason. They probably wanted to get away from the stresses of city life, but they were so distracted by their phones that they were completely oblivious to the beauty around them.

Did they hear the squirrels chattering, the birds chirping, or the rustling of the wind in the tall grasses? Did they notice the gentle gurgling of the river where the ice had thawed in places, and how it changed to a rushing sound as the river cascaded over the small waterfall?

Did they spot the hidden gems in the park, the diamond-like twinkling of the sun on the river, the ruby-red berries which over-wintered on some shrubs, or the secret tracks left in the snow by the squirrels, rabbits and groundhogs?

Did they see the gnarled and burled trunk of the 200-year-old willow, which looked like something out of “the Hobbit,” and notice how it contrasted with the smooth grey bark of the nearby beech trees?

Did they notice the differing shapes of the trees, how some thrust their way up to the sky, while others hung their branches in weeping fashion toward the earth? Did they spot the varied colours of the conifers, ranging from bright yellow-green to icy blue-green to the darkest hunter green?

If only they tried looking up, I mused, they could have seen so much beauty.

But they were so glued to their phones for fear of missing out on the newest thing on social media or the latest message from a friend that they ended up missing so much more.

They might as well have stayed in the parking lot!

Don’t miss out on the beauty all around you. Try looking up!

How much else are we missing when we’re glued to our devices? Do we notice when our child is sad, seems more stressed at school, or isn’t eating properly? Do we notice that we’re not as connected to our spouse anymore? Do we notice that we hardly ever see our friends in person any longer?

If only we’d try looking up.

We’re so obsessed with our devices these days that it borders on an addiction. It’s likely affecting our relationship with God, too. Do we notice that we’re not taking the time to pray like we used to? That we’re not as close to God as we used to be?

God longs to be close to us; He loves us and wants a relationship with us. The Scripture says “draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8 ESV). That seems to imply that we need to take the first step.

But we’re not reaching out to God when our lives revolve around reaching for our phones. We’re looking at those little screens and not looking at the bigger picture, seeing things from eternity’s perspective.

Our loving Father in Heaven extends His hand to us, but we’re too busy looking down at the phone in our hand. We’re in desperate need of love and wisdom and acceptance, but we’re not looking to the One who can give us everything we need.

Try looking up.

© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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