Slaying Dragons Solo

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. …”

Romans 7: 15

I thought I could get away with it. But, she busted me. Cold.

I took my daughter on a date recently. Through tears at a dinner table conversation a few weeks prior, she shared with me that she wanted to spend more time with her Dad. We used to go on dates together on Saturdays. Not every Saturday. Just once a month or so. A kayak trip on a nearby lake. Mini-golfing. A movie. Breakfast. Just Claire and me. It was our special time to connect. We had a good run. But a few months back, I stumbled.

The intentionality that I had previously put into planning our time together gave way to other things. Namely, extra client commitments I picked up on a weekend to bring in more cash flow, checking Facebook to see what I was missing out on, or other meaningless drivel that lived in an app somewhere on my phone.

For me, Facebook was the biggest culprit. I have an addiction to it. I also have an addiction to sugar. Facebook is like “digital sugar” for me. Once I get a taste, it is hard for me to stop. My addiction to Facebook was so pervasive that it was keeping me from being present with the ones I love the most. More than once, my wife wondered aloud if I loved Facebook more than I loved her. Even if I was on a date with my daughter, she got used to me glancing at my phone.

I suspect I’m not alone. According to Gallup, 52 percent of people check their phones a few times per hour or more, whether there’s a notification or not. I’m one of them. Maybe you can relate. If you can, we’re in trouble. Consider these stats from a blog I recently read called Break The Twitch:

  • U.S. users spend more than four hours per day on mobile devices.During which, the average user touches, swipes and taps their phone 2,617 times per day.
  • The average person receives 63.5 notifications per day
  • 91 percent of millennials say they have a healthy relationship with tech, but still check their phones 150 times per day.
  • 52 percent of baby boomers use their phones during meal times (the highest percentage of any age group, by the way.)
  • 74 percent of mobile users ages 18-34 report an urge to immediately pull out their phone and open up an app when they’re bored.

Slay The Dragon

On October 1, I resolved to slay my digital sugar dragon. I started a Facebook fast that I’ve been on ever since. Cold turkey. I took the Facebook app off my phone and the icon off of my laptop. I made only one exception: I’d log in for about two minutes every Friday to post this blog to the The Crucible Project’s Facebook page.  I wanted to see if I had what it took to resist the temptation. Instead, I would redirect the energy and time I normally gave digital sugar to more significant things: Reading God’s word, being present with my wife and daughter, prayer, silence & solitude, reading a real book or magazine, a walk outside, etc.

So far, I have done surprisingly well. I’ve tried different kinds of fasts before and haven’t been nearly as diligent as I have with this one. Truth be told, I don’t really miss it. Now that I’ve been away from it for so long, what stuns me the most is how much time I really gave it. Over the course of a month, I’m guessing that I gave away at least 10 solid hours on Facebook. Now that I’m “sober,” I am amazed at how much additional margin I have to be with the people I enjoy. I’m also surprised at how less stressed I feel. Whenever I was on Facebook, I typically was less content with the life I was living because I’d be constantly comparing mine to everyone else. I wasn’t grateful for what I had. Like my beautiful wife and my precious daughter.

Which brings me back to her. When we went on that daddy-daughter date, I had been Facebook “sober” for about two weeks. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Cocky is probably a better word. I thought I had mastered it. That morning, I went so far as to promise her that I’d give her my full attention that day.

On Saturday morning, I took her to a local hover board park so what we could experience a thrill of a new adventure. First, they trained us. It takes a lot of balance to navigate one of those things. Plus, you have to be quick and nimble (Claire and I are neither). But, we faced our fears together.  Then, they turned us loose in the park. There are several courses. You start out with the easy ones and  they get progressively harder with sharp turns, steep inclines, obstacles, etc. We were having a blast.

Fighting Solo

That’s when it happened. She was on the far side of one course. I had been present with her the whole time. I didn’t have Facebook on my phone to tempt me. But, I still felt a nudge. So, when she wasn’t looking, I pulled out my phone to check email. You know where this is going. Simultaneously, Claire was attempting a new stunt on her hover board. She looked up and shouted “Look at me, Dad!”  And there I was. Staring at my digital screen.

She gently reminded me that I broke my promise. I owned up to it and asked for forgiveness. Claire extended it freely and with grace.

I share this story not to beat myself up or shame myself publicly. I share it because we all have some kind of dragon to slay. Maybe it is an addiction. Perhaps it is another habit, hurt or hangup. Whatever it is, chances are good that it is keeping us from fully being the man we want to become.

And just when we believe we have it conquered in our own strength, that’s precisely the point when Satan will secure his foothold and remind us of our mere mortalness.

You see, when I drew a line in the sand that morning and said I’d stay off my phone in order to be present with my daughter, I did all of it in my own strength. When I prayed earlier that morning, I didn’t ask God to give me strength. My spirit of self-reliance convinced me that I didn’t need God for a minor thing like that. Likewise, I didn’t reach out to my wife or one of my Crucible Brothers beforehand and ask for prayer and accountability. I flew solo.

That’s not how God designed us to slay our dragons. That’s also why I love the imagery of the Redwoods that we use in The Crucible Project to describe our unique, God-fearing brotherhood.

The storms will come. We all will be tested. But despite the intensity of the storm, we as men can make a choice to continually reach out to brothers and reach up to God. We can lock our root systems together and stand strong and steadfast in the promise of Ephesians 6 (armor of God) to honestly face the truth about ourselves, take responsibility for our lives, face our fears and call forth the best in each other to impact our worlds.

So, I’m asking you brothers:

  • What dragon do you need to slay?
  • What weapons can you use and choices can you make to fight this battle?
  • Have you invited God into your battle plan?
  • Are you willing to call upon your Crucible brothers and ask them to stand with you?

By Jeff Madsen

Jeff completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2008 and graduated from our two-year transformational program. His mission is to build a legacy of surrender, simplicity and significance. Jeff is the owner of Legacy Nation LLC, an independent corporate communications practice based in suburban Chicago. He is passionate about equipping men with a LifePlan so they can discover their God-given legacies.

Photo Credit: Marin Stuart via Creative Commons (Redwoods)