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My iPhone and God

January 19, 2012

I have this issue with thinking everything that happens has some bigger meaning.

For the past few days, I’ve been fretting about my iPhone. You’d think the thing was a family member or something. I was at a museum with my kids, and when I went to the bathroom, my phone slipped out of my pocket and crashed on the floor. When I picked it up, I was awe-struck by the myriad cracks in the surface. Woah, I thought. That really is glass. And also, Shit. What do I do now?

This glass crack came on the heels of a lot of talk in my household about simplicity. See, my teaching jobs are not always entirely dependable. My son is going into kindergarten next year and we have to figure out where to send him. (Our dream is a private school.) We have this credit card debt thingie that we have to pay down before we start accruing interest. In other words, we need to be careful about money. We need to simplify.

There’s a lot to be said for making things simple. For one, it makes me feel a lot less anxiety than having too many options. Options, while I seem to like them, just end up equalling complications in my chest. And then there’s the Quaker thing, the focus on simplicity. I am a practicing neo-Quaker.

So the big question on my mind was, Do I replace this sucker? (Money!) Or do I fix this sucker? (Money!) Or do I just get a free phone and not have internet on my phone at all? That’s not the end of the world, is it? I mean, what do I actually need? People lived for a long time without internet access in their pockets. And if my husband hadn’t gotten me an iPhone for my birthday two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have ever bought one myself. So clearly, I should just get a simpler phone.

I struggled with this for days. I talked about it for days. (Said Husband was getting really weary about the whole thing.) I felt like the cracking glass may have been some sort of divine signal that I needed to practice mindfulness, be fully in every moment.

Still, for some reason, I wasn’t fully convinced. My iPhone is fun. I’ve grown really accustomed to it. I like having a camera and video and texting and music all at my fingertips, even if those fingertips sometimes get tired and should just remain still. And now the phones have this robot person who does stuff for you. I have often thought about how much I need one of those.

The amount of emotional energy I was devoting to this situation was unhealthy.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. Her humor makes me downright giddy, but she also has plenty of serious moments I’ve enjoyed reading before I turn off my book light and fall asleep. In one story, she talks about how much her young son wanted to go hang-gliding. He was too young, but he really, really wanted to go, and she really, really wanted to make him happy while also making the right decision. So she asked God if She could just take a moment of Her very important day to give her a sign.

God did.

It came in the form of relief. Lamott was watching a woman dance and decided, What the Hell, and joined her. As she danced, she imagined how she’d feel if she told her son he couldn’t go hang-gliding the next day. She felt a wave of relief wash over her. When she imagined letting him go, she felt terror. So that was her answer.

I’m not describing it so well, but buy the book and you’ll get a better idea.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve often felt that wave of relief  that alerts me that something true and right has just happened; I just never recognized it as spiritual or divine. Once, when I found out I was going to be laid off from my job and I was four months pregnant, I was strangely flooded by relief. It turned out to be a good thing, in the end. It put me in the place I’m in now, which is a much better place than where I was before.

So I’ve been looking for this feeling of relief, this sign that would tell me the right answer about my iPhone. I asked God, new iPhone?


Me: Old-type phone with no internet access?

God: Eh. Maybe. I don’t know.

Today, as the cracked iPhone got bulkier and uglier and harder to use, I decided I needed to make a final decision. In the morning, I found out I had made a huge career gaffe in applying to a job I’d dearly like to have. It was hugely upsetting. When I got off the phone, I went on the Apple website. You know, just to kill some time.

I appealed to God once again. Old phone?

God: Um. 

New iPhone?

God: Oh yes. You deserve it, Jana. You’ve been on an emotional whirlwind and you just get right on up and get it.

And so I did. You can’t argue with God.

And that is my story on iPhones and spirituality.


Image: First Day by frogsthatmoo via Flickr.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber January 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

Yes, you should never argue with God over getting a new iPhone.


Becca January 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

Jana, I just love you and your posts. :)


Jana January 21, 2012 at 7:17 am

Thanks, Becca!


Kristen @ Motherese January 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

I love my iPhone. And I love Anne Lamott. (I have that book on the pile next to my bed.) I can imagine worse ways of reaching a decision than channeling Anne Lamott while on


Jana January 21, 2012 at 7:35 am

Just be careful with the Lamott book. Some of the later chapters are too sad to read before bed (kids and diseases, you get the idea). I actually had to take a break.


Christine January 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I’m with Kristen on all fronts. :-)


Liz S January 20, 2012 at 11:15 am

I guess there’s an argument in there somewhere about how an iPhone can actually simplify things (I’ve had mine for a month and I’m hooked, though I did get insurance on it). We are simplifying in our household as well, and it’s not easy. It feels like every move is a carefully calculated risk/reward type of decision. No fun. Best of luck to you!


Jana January 21, 2012 at 7:34 am

Hi Liz,
Yes, that argument is out there somewhere. I was considering the insurance question. The problem is, my last phone (which is now fixed thanks to a cheap panel from the internet) broke after 2 1/2 years, so I’d be in the same boat. I’m thinking of getting one of those ultra-think cases that protects it, though I hate to see the sleek simplicity covered up by a bunch of rubber. (At least no one will get pregnant.)


Scott January 21, 2012 at 6:42 am

O love reading your posts Jana but you’ve got me confused with this one. I thought that fourth paragraph said practicing Neo-Quaker. Your decision to purchase sounds very New-Age American, the alter of which is a vacuum that sucks money from your clenched fist in return for relief from stress and anxiety through possessions. On the positive side, apple probably has an app that allows you to determine which private school you can send your son to based on your level of debt.


Jana January 21, 2012 at 7:31 am

I totally understand this, Scott. But don’t confuse Quakers with the Amish—we are allowed to enjoy technology. In fact, not so long ago, one of the members of my meeting stood up and read a poem from his iPhone. (I was not thrilled, since that seemed pre-planned, and messages in meeting are supposed to be deeply felt in the moment.) I have some issues with Apple and consumer electronics, which I was going to write in a separate post before this one. I don’t like how these items are designed to become obsolete with the fast changes in technology, with the latest upgrades that occur only months after the previous release. I have written several posts on this blog about my apprehension surrounding technological dependence, about the fact that there is a lot more to life than that 4″ screen. The fact that iPhone screens crack so viciously is yet another concern. But while I struggled with the question of whether to replace my iPhone for DAYS, even checked out some simpler phones at the store, this final decision felt like the right one for me. It was actually—and I recognize that this may be a stretch—a simpler choice in the fact that I got one with smaller GBs and also don’t have to deal with the learning curve of a new phone. (It also didn’t hurt that I found a small check I hadn’t yet cashed and used that to pay for it!)

This is probably a lot more than you were anticipating in response, but I appreciate your comment and I’m glad to see you here. Do you have any hankering left for the Maladjusted Book Club? :)


scott January 21, 2012 at 7:52 am

You and I could probably kill a whole afternoon in a coffee shop somewhere cover the array of topics on the table here. We are kindred souls in a lot of ways here. Hailing just a stone’s throw away from Amich country I recognize the difference (and bless you for having a religious focus of some kind. I could empty the full pot of coffee with my thoughts on that topic). Your focus though is simplicity and I find the 7″ tablet screen I’M attached to as much a distraction as a help. Too much information too readily available blurs my focus on what is important whether that be work or spending time with family instead of buried in front of a screen.
I understand your lamenting over a purchase as well. My mind is currently struggling with the battle between the college tuition I have to start paying for Jr. in the next 18 months and the surround sound system I want to purchase for my reading room (and I, like you just picked up a little extra work that will likely tip my scale towards picking up that sound system first thing Monday). We always seem to justify our wants and many times it is little signs like these that answer those questions. I just find myself sucked into the consumption mentality when, like you, know there is a simpler, happier life out there.
I keep an eye on the Maladjusted Book Club selections. I’ll be back in soon….promise.


Randi W January 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm

You sound sorta like Mitchell (TMP)!


Jana January 22, 2012 at 8:09 am

Well, Jeffrey Eugenides and I probably have so much in common. We’re both Pulitzer Prize Winners, for one….


Christine January 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I’m ashamed by how attached I am to my phone. It’s not human. But I recently started leaving it in the kitchen instead of bringing it into the bedroom at night. I’m not sure if I’m strong enough to make it last, but for now it feels good to wake up and not check it as the very first thing I do in the day. Feels like I may be taking back a little bit of my life.

P.S. I’ve missed you. We really need to connect.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri January 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I am very attached to my phone. Trying to break free, but I am very plugged. I do try to leave it in another part of the house when I am sleeping. Baby steps, right? And of course, Anne Lamott is one of my favorite favorite writers.


Paul January 7, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I’m deciding to give mine up because God just revealed to me it’s a breaking of the second commandment. Do not worship anything made via hands over Him. That put things into perspective for me as I realized how much we rely on ourselves and/or the extensions of our intellect rather than faith, which is the only thing that will save our souls. I think that advice you got came from someone other than God. Because God is love. iPhone is not love. Our life should be about maximizing on love and God.


Jana January 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Hi Paul,
I agree we should be careful what we worship, but I’m in luck: I don’t worship my iPhone. I enjoy it and use it, but I know I could live without it. I don’t think God really cares whether we have big TVs or fancy cars or iPhones, as long as we own them, and they don’t own us.


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