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A Bent-Necked People

In today’s First Reading, Moses refers to his fellow Israelites as “stiff-necked.” Picture someone with a stiff neck—chin up, stubborn, proud! This was the wickedness and sin that was rampant among them. I don’t have great posture, so I might not be stiff-necked, but that doesn’t mean I am free from a little postural wickedness myself.

Instead I might get called bent-necked: craning toward my screen, looking away from situations that make me uncomfortable, losing myself in my phone or my laptop. I use my phone like a pacifier or a blanket. Rather than being open to encounter, face-to-face, I seek a mediated environment. On social media or in texts, I can take the time to curate what I want to say, how I want to be perceived, and with what or whom I interact. The real world is messier! But that’s the world for which we were created.

I move through the world with the constant opportunity to build a wall and make a barrier between myself and those I encounter. Sometimes the one I encounter is a stranger, but sometimes I am bending away from people I love. It can be easier to slip away into my phone, habitual and second-nature. Am I choosing to love less because I am turning my face away from what is real and true in this world? Am I allowing the little device in my hand or purse or pocket to become an idol? The stiff-necked Israelites may have had a golden calf, but the little rose gold iPhone can be just as dangerous.

Moses continues, “yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” (Exodus 34:9) I want to be received as God’s own and turn away from my habitual sins, as small or large as they may be. He offers complete pardon and love, we just have to choose it.

Look up from your phone today at a moment when you might want to mindlessly scroll through social media or texts. Standing in the coffee line, riding the bus or train, waiting in the car at pick-up, choose not to be bent-necked.

Brigid Hogan is a midwestern graduate student who finds peace in lakes, the Mass, and fiction when she isn’t ensconced in schoolwork. Find out more about her here.

4 Comments

  • Reply
    Eliza
    August 1, 2017 at 1:57 am

    I was incredibly struck today by the last line of the first section of the reading from Exodus: “but his young assistant, Joshua, son of Nun, would not move out of the tent.”
    I guess I always thought Moses was there on his own, but no, this young man who would one day lead his people into the promised land was there as well…because he needed to be in order to have the courage to face the giants when everyone else said it was impossible. Being in the presence of God and seeing how truly big and powerful He is should make us all brave. Time spent in prayer- especially time spent in adoration face-to-face with Jesus- should prepare our hearts for every trial and situation that scares us. When something just seems too big or overwhelming, I want to be able to look at it head on and say, “OK, but my God is bigger and more powerful. I know because I have seen Him.”

  • Reply
    Mirjana
    August 1, 2017 at 6:31 am

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today! Recently I had the realization that I use my phone to numb away emotions, rather than dealing with them. So last night I made the resolution to bring hard emotions to Christ FIRST, and then He will show me where to go from there to deal with them, instead of reaching for my phone immediately. Reading this reflection this morning kind of solidified my decision. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Diane
    August 1, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Spot. on. “I use my phone like a pacifier or blanket.” Oh yes.
    What a humbling realization and excellent message. Thanks, Brigid!

  • Reply
    Morgan
    August 1, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Needed to hear this. Just got a rose gold iPhone a few weeks ago. Coincidence? Nope.

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