Phantom faith

by Sean Ashberry

You’ve probably felt it. It’s that familiar tickle or vibration on your side that indicates when you have an incoming phone call or have received a text or email. On most phones it’s called the “silent mode.”

It’s helpful when you are in a meeting or a crowd and don’t want to annoy people with the constant beeping or when you aren’t quite comfortable with the excerpt from that ’70s band you are using as your ringtone.

I wore a pager (old school) for 16 years working in Emergency Medical Services. Wore it every waking hour. Then when cell phones became the standard issue, I wore a pager and a cell phone.

Many times I set them to vibrate unless I was in a noisy environment. What I began experiencing, the sensation that anyone who wears the phone next to their body knows, is called “phantom phone.”

That’s when you feel the phone vibrate when it doesn’t, or think the phone is on your person when it is actually not. It’s a true physical phenomenon.

“If you use your cell phone a lot, it becomes part of you,” says Dr. William Barr, the chief of neuropsychology at the New York University School of Medicine. “You become habituated to it. It’s like wearing a tight sock all day,” he explains. “When you take it off, you still feel it there on your foot. If your cell phone is not there, you still feel like it is.”

Aren’t we the opposite about God sometimes? If we allow God to be an integral part of our life, wouldn’t we feel his presence more? Not phantom feelings but real tangible presence.

If we seek a constant relationship with him, to have as intimate a relationship with him as we do our phones and emails and Facebooks, would we ever feel far from his presence?

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside waters of rest. He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness I will fear no evil, for you are in my presence; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; you keep me groomed. Only goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the temple of Yahweh forever.” (Psalm 23)

If we feel the presence and workings of a phone that is not present, why can’t we feel the presence of our God who never leaves us or forsakes us?

It’s because our relationship with him is superficial. It’s occasional. We need to allow God to permeate our lives because “He will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

If you find yourself not feeling God’s presence, you need to stop and ask yourself what is going on in your life that has prevented God’s Spirit from dwelling fully within you.

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

*From “The Observer,” bulletin of the Somers Avenue church in North Little Rock, Ark, 2011 Mar 06. Sean ministers in the congregation.

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