Hi, my name is Tyler, and I don’t have the Internet.
A strange notion, I know. This is my story.
First, full disclosure: I do have the Internet some. I work in our church’s communications department. I run our social media and blog. The Internet is the reason you’re reading these words now. However, I only have the Internet at work. At home I don’t have the Internet and I can’t get the Internet on my phone. My smart phone has been given a lobotomy.
Ok, so what was the reason for this dinosauric approach to life? Well, fuller disclosure: I’m a recovering porn addict. I have been a porn addict most of my life. I found a porn magazine someone had haphazardly discarded in the woods near my house when I was seven with my friend. It did something to my brain I still can’t fully explain and has had painful repercussions for almost 30 years. One person’s careless act one day many years ago cast a very long shadow over my life, and I’m still coming to terms with it.
Another reason is I’m married. I greatly value my wife and her feelings. In a moment of clarity while we were still dating I told my wife about my addiction so it wouldn’t be a crushing secret to her later. And, lo and behold, she didn’t reject me. My wife remains a quiet, yet profound, picture of Jesus to me in that way. But, as our marriage progressed, we both realized marriage wouldn’t magically heal my addiction – that’s not how porn addiction works. And, as you can imagine, it did a number on us. So, what could we do? I tried support groups (they help a ton of people, they just didn’t help me), I tried therapy (very helpful for me, but it’s not an instant cure – more of a long, slow walk through the abyss inside), but while I was slowly getting better, our marriage was suffering now. I felt very distant from my wife. I felt very distant from God. It was dark.
During this time, I had a talk with Marshall Brown I’ll never forget. Remember him? He was the salmon-colored-pants-wearing pastor who worked here about 5 years ago. He did our pre-marriage counseling and was my Covenant Eyes accountability partner (oh yeah, that didn’t help me either). Well, he kindly agreed to stay on and counsel me after my wife and I got married. One of the most profound things he told me during that time was a statement not his own. He reminded me that Jesus had said in the Sermon on the Mount that “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” I had always taken this to mean that it’s not your eye that’s causing you to sin; it’s your heart. And, of course, you can’t pluck your heart out – literal or figurative. But, Marshall said he thought it referred to “plucking out” anything that was provoking you to sin, even if it meant having to pluck out your eye – literally. What?! I thought about bringing church discipline charges against him for heresy, but, in time, I realized he might be right. (I’m kidding about the church discipline thing, by the way, for those of you who were unsure. Please don’t bring charges against me.)
But, if he was right about what Jesus was saying, how did that apply to my current, bleak situation? What was causing me to sin? My heart – for sure. But, also my digital pusher – the Internet. I realized Jesus might actually want me to disconnect from the Internet. In all honesty, this was my wife’s idea first. When she brought it up, I told her it couldn’t be done and it was a fool’s errand to even try. After all, the Internet has its tentacles all over us. But really, the truth was I didn’t want to give up my idols. I love them a lot. I write them love notes. I bring them flowers. But, through the patient persistence of my loving wife and the grace of God pulverizing my heart, I finally agreed to at least give it a try.
This is where the hard part began. My wife researched through various websites how to put up blocks. And believe me when I tell you that this was a long process of eye plucking. In fact, if you had told us how hard and long this process would be, I might have just plucked out my eyes and donated them to science. But, here were some of the things we had to do:
- Taking the Internet off of my phone.
- Taking all non-Apple apps off of my phone (they can access the internet if you know how).
- Denying access to the Internet apps on my computer.
- Denying access to my email app on my computer (it can get “Internet preview pages” sent to it).
- Passwords on all of my wife’s devices (about seven).
- Passwords on all of our streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.).
- We had to get a new “Non-smart” TV that couldn’t download other apps.
- And, I’m sure I’ll find more.
The end result is that I can no longer get to my idols, and this has been a great blessing. My idols like hurting me. They delight in it. And, I delight in letting them hurt me. It’s a good arrangement until it’s not. All that to say, because of this “plucking”, my relationship with God has never been better. My relationship with my wife has never been better. I’d be lying to you if I said I was a healed man. I’d also be lying to you if I said I was in the same place I was 5 years ago. I believe Jesus delights in healing psyches. I’m a witness.
But, there’s one strange side effect. I now feel like I live in the late 1980’s. One thing the 1980’s had on the 2010’s is that it was a more peaceful time where telephones were attached to walls and you could actually live away from them. Your life wasn’t constantly on the never-ending hamster wheel called the Internet. I’ve not been for some time and it is truly amazing. That’s all I’ll say.
Let me bore you a moment before I go. The term “Luddite” is a word pretentious people like me use to describe people who resist technology. But, the original definition is much more fitting for what I’m experiencing now. The Luddites were originally textile workers in 19th Century England who destroyed mechanized weaving machines because they believed they were threatening their livelihood. And, in this way, I believe I’m a Spiritual Luddite. I have, by God’s grace and the help of my wife, been eradicating the technology in my life that was clearly stealing my spiritual livelihood. I’m going to propose something bold: Neo-Ludditism. Maybe you’ll join the movement. I’m pretty sure there are other people like me who could benefit from a slash and burn approach to their technology because it is threatening their spiritual livelihood. I don’t know your story. This is my story.