Over 350 Chick-fil-A restaurants are now offering a "family challenge": If you'll lock your phone up in a "Cell Phone Coop" for the entire meal, you win a free ice cream cone. This coop, a cardboard box at the center of your table, holds your phone while your family keeps your attention. The average American spends four hours a day on the phone. But Chick-fil-A is hoping to entice their customers to reduce that time and increase their calorie count.
Research shows that dinnertime conversation boosts the vocabulary of young children more than being read aloud to does. Regular family meals have been shown to lower the risk of teenage smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, eating disorders, and sexual activity. However, it does increase their chances of attaining a higher grade point average and better self-esteem.
In her book Reclaiming Conversations, MIT professor Sherry Turkle observes: "It used to be that we imagined our mobile phones were there so that we could talk to each other. Now we want our mobile phones to talk to us." Turkle writes that when you use your phone in the company of others, you gain a hit of stimulation but often lose a friend in the process. But there is hope. She finds that relationships deepen not always because of the substance of our conversations but the power of our presence.
There is something sacred about the breaking of bread, squabbling among siblings, and the sharing of a meal. Families serve as the bedrock institution of societies. When families falter, societies suffer. But when families prosper, communities flourish. And the launching pad for this prosperity starts at the kitchen table. Chick-fil-A recognizes that and hopes you will, too.
Since Genesis, we have faced the temptation to be partially present with those whom we love and those who love us. An apple allured Eve, strong drink tempted Noah, and the empty promises from a serpent severed the connection between God and humanity.
But God, rich in mercy, became fully present in Jesus to invite us back into a relationship with him. Technology can tempt you to be like God, where you know everything, can be everywhere, and can see everyone. But in our desire to be everywhere, we can end up being nowhere—with no one.
We may be distracted, but our God is determined. He hasn't given up on us, and we can't give up on each other.
God wants to connect with us and connect us with each other. Your relationships are only as strong as your availability. When we draw near to God, he draws near to us (James 4:8). When we forsake gathering together with each other, we miss out on encouraging one another and being encouraged by another (Hebrews 10:24–25).
In Revelation 3:20, we find God standing at the door and knocking. He patiently waits at the door until you are ready to let him in. He's come to share a meal with you. But like love, he will not force himself. Are you distracted?
What do you need to put into the chicken coop now in order to experience the fullness of a relationship later?
Publication date: March 7, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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