My son is waiting by the road for his ride to school.
I remember being fourteen and waiting for my ride to school. Sometimes, I would try to walk the balance beam of railroad ties separating our yard from the shoulder of the road. But I bored of that quickly. Then, I would pass the time walking into myself. I’d think thoughts. Feel feelings. Wonder about who I was and where I was going. Daydream of dating girls who were way out of my league. Feel insecure, even in my own daydreams. In other words, I’d wander into my humanity.
My son is not walking railroad ties.
But even more importantly, he’s not walking into himself. He’s not wandering into the infinite abyss of his humanity. Rather, he’s wandering into the infinite abyss of something else. He’s on his phone. Rather than venturing into his interior world, he’s venturing into his digital world.
This is tragic.
I know that sounds a little alarmist. And I know I sound like an out-of-touch old man, pining for the good ole days of an analog world. But the truth is, I think it’s tragic not because my son is different than me, but because he is like me. For much of the last year, I got lost in my phone. When a silent moment arrived, rather than exploring the world happening within me, I reached for my phone and dove into the world within it.
Again, this is tragic.
It’s tragic because we are here to discover ourselves. We are here to wade into all the mess that exists just beneath our carefully crafted facades. We are here to have a reckoning with our arrogance, to understand the roots of our rage, to befriend our fear, and to sit with our sorrow. We are here to silence our shame.
We are here to wade into our mess until that moment—that graceful moment—when we’ve waded far enough to finally catch a glimpse of what lies on the other side of the mess: our true self. Our soul. God, love, grace and mercy and every beautiful thing, residing right there, at the center of us.
My son’s head is bowed and his phone is raised and this is tragic, because in any moment, there are two infinite journeys you might embark upon—the journey into your phone, or the journey into you. The architects of your phone have designed it so you will become addicted to the digital journey. They are robbing you of you.
The architect of your soul is much less manipulative.
The only incentive for the journey into you is delight. The delight that arises from discovering that you are good enough and worthy, just the way you are. The delight that arises from discovering you are not alone, never have been, and never will be. The delight that arises from discovering that you matter, that there’s a reason for your life, that it’s all heading somewhere.
I’ve been trying to detox from my phone and to become intoxicated, once again, with this journey into me. As a therapist, I can tell you this is the most powerful thing a therapy room has to offer—the space to enter into yourself.
As a parent, I want to tell my son that’s the most powerful thing a roadside has to offer, as well.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.