Tech-Wise Family: 1&2. Choosing Character & Shaping Space

The three key decisions of a tech-wise family is wether:

  1. We develop wisdom and courage together as family.
  2. We want to create more than we consume.
  3. We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest.

1. Choosing Character

1. We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.

We need to understand what makes technology so different from any previous human invention. We also need to understand what family is for, which is something radically ancient and in grave danger of being forgotten.

What is Family for?

I want to suggest a pretty radical idea about what family is for. Family is about the forming of persons. Family shapes us in countless ways. Family helps form us into persons who have acquired wisdom and courage.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion” – Proverbs 18:2 -which also sounds a lot like social media.

All the really important things we do as families involve developing wisdom. You can’t search for wisdom -at least, not online. And it’s as rare and precious as ever- maybe, given how complex our lives have become, rarer and more precious than before.

The Faithful, Scary Thing to Do

We need the conviction and character to act. And that is what courage is about. And even though it’s incredibly hard simply to know what we should do, it’s even harder to actually act on what we know we should do.

The way of wisdom has been clear: stay committed, stay faithful, stay hopeful.

We need people who love us -who are unreservedly and unconditionally committed to us, our flourishing, and our growth no matter what we do, and who are so committed to us that they won’t let us stay the way we are.

Family, for almost all of us, is the setting where we are known and cared for in the fullest and longest-lasting sense.

The First Family

It’s only recently, and in a small corner of the world, that “family” has primarily meant a father, a mother, and their biological children living together in a “single-family” home. According to the US Census Bureau it describes less than 20 percent of US households as of 2012.

“…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” Matthew 12:48-50. The first family for everyone who wants wisdom and courage in the way of Jesus is the church. The church is the place we learn to become the persons we were meant to be.

But if the church is to be our first family, it cannot just be a friendly, weekly gathering. The first Christians met in homes, and those homes were not single-family dwellings but Greaco-Roman “households” that often included several generations as well as uncles and aunts, clients, and indentured servants of the “paterfamilias”. The church too was a household -a gathering of related and unrelated persons all bound together by grace and the pursuit of holiness. It is important to notice that the first Christians had a multi-generational church, a church for the whole family together, not separated by different age groups. 

If our families are to be all that they are meant to be -schools of wisdom and courage- they will have to become more like the church, households where we are actively formed into something more than our culture would ask us to be. And if our churches are to be all they are meant to be, they will have to become more like family -household-like contexts of daily life where we are all nurtured and developed into the persons we are meant to be and can become.

We’ve always needed community wider than the solitary, nuclear family to thrive, and we surely need it now.

Hollow Fruit

Without a doubt, compared to human beings just one century ago, we are more globally connected, better informed about many aspects of the world, in certain respects more productive, and -thanks to GPS and Google Maps- certainly less lost. But are we more patient, kind, forgiving, fearless, committed, creative than they were? And if we are, how much credit should technology receive?

In countless ways our lives are easier than our grandparents’. But in what really matters -for example, wisdom and courage- it seems very hard to argue that our lives are overall better.

Does technology make me the kind of human being who could contribute something of lasting value to my family, my neighbors, my society, and our broken world?

Technology is good at serving human beings. It does almost nothing to actually form human beings.

Anything that offers easy everywhere does nothing (well, almost nothing) to actually form human capacities.

In the most intimate setting of the household, where the deepest human work of our lives is meant to take place, technology distracts and displaces us far too ofter, undermining the real work of becoming persons of wisdom and courage.

Will this help me become less foolish and more wise? Will this help me become less fearful and more courageous?

We will have to teach our children, from early on, that we are not here as parents to make their lives easier but to make them better. We will tell them -and show them- that noting matters more to our family than creating a home where all of us can be known, loved, and called to grow. 

2. Shaping Space

WE WANT TO CREATE MORE THAN WE CONSUME. SO WE FILL THE CENTER OF OUR HOME WITH THINGS THAT REWARD SKILL AND ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT.

 

Fill the center of your life together –the literal center, the heart of your home, the place where you spend the most time together- with the things that reward creativity, relationship, and engagement. Push technology and cheap thrills to the edges; move deeper and more lasting things to the core.

Homes still need a center, and the best things to put in the center of our homes are engaging things –things that require attention, reward skill, and draw us together the way the hearth once did.

Priceless Things

If you do only one thing in response to this blog series, I urge you to make it this: Find the room where your family spends the most time and ruthlessly eliminate the things that ask little of you and develop little in you. Move the TV to a less central location –and ideally a less comfortable one. And begin filling the space that is left over with opportunities for creativity and skill, beauty and risk.

This is the central nudge of the tech-wise life: to make the place where we spend the most time the place where easy everywhere is hardest to find. This simple nudge, all by itself, is a powerful antidote to consumer culture, the way of life that finds satisfaction mostly in enjoying what other people have made.

A single pencil can produce more “colors” of gray and black than the most high-tech screen can reproduce.

For a child’s creative development, the inexpensive, deep, organic thing is far better than the expensive, broad, electronic thing.

In the center, put the things that both adults and children will find endlessly engaging, demanding, and delightful.

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