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.