Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. [1 John 3:18 (NLT)]
Several years ago, we were celebrating Valentine’s Day with a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. A young couple was seated next to us and, from the way she kept flashing the shiny diamond on her left hand, it appeared they were newly engaged. I thought how sweet it was for us old married folks to sneak a peek into some young love on this traditional night of romance. Instead of holding hands, however, the couple held their phones. Instead of staring into each other’s eyes, they stared down at their phones. Instead of whispering sweet nothings, they texted, tweeted, Facebooked, or Linked in. They did look up long enough for the waiter to take their picture, which was instantly sent off to the cloud somewhere. The only time they touched was when they posed for the requisite selfies. The phones were lowered only when a glass or fork was raised. Unless they were texting one another (which is a distinct possibility), the few times I saw them speak was to share something on their phones.
“What happened to romance?” I wondered. What happened to conversation? What happened to touch, eye contact, or even laughter? When did it become more vital to share our thoughts with the world than with the person beside us? When did it become more important to memorialize an event digitally than to live the event while it is happening? When did it become more imperative to show the world our faces than to show our loved ones our hearts?
Part of me wanted to grab their phones away and warn them that love needs more than on-line posts and a relationship can’t be maintained with 280-character tweets. I’m just an old married lady, but even I know that love requires work and that Google, Alexa, and Siri don’t have all the answers. Love is far more than looking good for the rest of the world; love is being good with and for one another. Being loved and being able to love are gifts from God. Although I said nothing to them, I did pray for them. If I’d had their numbers, I might have texted Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 13 that have guided us in our marriage. Maybe then they would have noticed one another.
Recently, I watched a young family at another restaurant. Both mother and father had their noses in their phones the entire evening and their two children were busy with their individual tablets: one watching a movie and the other playing a game. The only time they looked away from their devices was to speak with the waitress. I couldn’t help but remember that twosome many Valentine’s Days ago. If they’re even still together, is this what their family meals are like?
Let us never mistake simply being there with being present. Love is far more than just the presence of our bodies—it’s our mental and emotional presence, as well! While our cell phones and tablets connect us with the world, that connection must never be at the expense of truly connecting, face to face, with one another! If we ever hope to truly connect, we first must disconnect.