As I got into bed last night, I mentioned to my husband that I had been bothered all evening after reading a People magazine article online about a college girl who had killed her roommate. Hearing the commotion, someone called 911. When the police arrived, the girl opened the door, held out her hands as if for handcuffs, and told the police to arrest her saying, “I killed her.” The article placed a link to the victim’s Instagram account. There I saw post after post of the 2 “best friends.” At the back of my mind all evening was the heartbreaking image of that girl presenting herself to be arrested. What happened? Why?
After briefly telling my husband about what was bothering me, my husband commented, “That’s why I don’t read those articles.” I jokingly responded, “Well, some of us have to live in the real world.” “Oh yes,” he said dryly, “I guess I’ll need to read People magazine tomorrow in order to get in touch with reality.” We both laughed – at his wit and at the cutting ridiculousness of what he had said.
So, here’s the backstory behind my reading that disturbing article, so obviously unnecessary to my reality. I had a few minutes to myself in the late afternoon. Having missed my morning prayer time, I sat down to do just that. Before beginning, I told myself that something important might be going on in the world, so I should just take a quick look at the news. I picked up my phone to check, and it all went downhill from there.
And so, there I was, getting into bed at the end of the night. Had I ended up praying earlier? No, of course not. Did I feel guilty for totally wasting my time? Yes. And sadly, I had missed out on another opportunity to pray later in the evening. Once again my phone and aimless browsing took precedence.
Thus, I awoke this morning with fresh resolve to have my prayer time early to make sure I actually got it done today. With the fervor of a fresh penitent, I opened my Bible, turned to Genesis 4, and started reading. The story was about Cain, who was angry that God had been pleased with Abel’s sacrifice but not with his own. In response to his anger God said: “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:6b-7).
Hello God!! Are you talking directly to me? If I had done well yesterday, spent time with the Lord, and avoided the temptation to pick up my phone, would I have had a fallen countenance when I went to bed? Of course not. I went to bed feeling out of sorts not only about what I had read, but because I knew I had missed my prayer time, and wasted my evening doing nothing online. And, seriously, couching? I’ve never even seen that word before, but that is actually the word used in my RSV Bible. I now know that it means “lying in wait,” but it meant something else in the moment. When I am feeling a bit tired or lazy, I am so tempted to throw myself on the couch. Once there, I often go online doing nothing of consequence. Not only does that waste the Lord’s time (because I have given him my whole life), but it is a terrible example to my children. I’ve known this before, but God spoke to me pretty clearly this morning.
I have some friends who think that spending time online without a clear purpose is no big deal, but I believe God is showing me that it is a very big deal indeed. Every time I do this, I neglect something more important that I should be doing, whether it is prayer, writing a card to a friend, making protein muffins for after-school snacks, or even giving myself a manicure. I now see that it can lead to sin, especially sins of neglect. When I am tired or listless and pick-up my phone and start browsing around, sin is couching at my door and sin wants to destroy me unless I master it. So today I am resolved to come up with some new strategies and approaches to master this persistent temptation in my life.