This is part 2 of Sarah’s conversation with Nathan Sutherland of Gospel Tech. Why does how we use our tech matter? Continue the conversation with us!
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Nathan [00:00:12] When we talk about technology, it isn’t, well, we’ve got to get our tech choices right the first time every single time. It’s in our tech choices, do we trust that God is better?
Sarah [00:00:22] As promised, we are here with episode number two. If you missed it last week, I highly suggest doing the whole pause this one go backward. You can hear us talk about the whole idea of why gospel tech and you’re going to get to hear Nathan’s heart behind all of it. This week as promised, we’re going to dive more into the practical application with you and your family, and you’re going to want to join us all the way until the end. Nathan shares a really heartfelt reason behind why all this matters so much to him and how it really changed his life and his family’s life. So without further ado, let’s dive back in. Nathan, Welcome back to part two with Nathan Sutherl…Does that happen to you a lot? Do you ever mess up your own name?
Nathan [00:01:05] I do. This is Nathan Sutherl…I’m like, “Oh, come on.” Yeah. The first month of recording my podcast it was like 8 to 10 attempts every single time, like. “Hi, I’m Nathan Souther…With a gospel…AHH” And the more you try, the worse it gets.
Sarah [00:01:23] It shouldn’t be hard. It’s not hard.
Nathan [00:01:25] Sutherland You just got to hit it. You got to be on top of the “The”
Sarah [00:01:28] Let’s see if I can do it. Welcome back to part two with Nathan Sutherland. If you missed the episode previous to this one, I’d actually stop now go back. It helps to hear the why, Why gospel tech? Why is this needed now? Why is there actually so much hope when it comes to technology? And so go listen to that one if you can. And then this one, we’re going to dive as promised a little deeper into some specifics just about technology, whether you’ve got a toddler or a teenager. I’ve sort of got all of that going on in my house. Our youngest is six and she’s the baby and I treat her like the baby. Then I’ve got a sixteen year old daughter and a son in the middle that his favorite way to unwind is to play Roblox or whatever it is. Yeah, sure. And I think the most popular thing I say in my house, my most popular phrase is, “Guys, let’s take a screen break.”
Nathan [00:02:20] Yeah. Which is amazing. Like a screen break. Do you notice a difference when you ask your kids like, “Hey, let’s take a step away? I love your faces in your eyes. Can you give me your attention?” Like, do you notice a shift?
Sarah [00:02:32] I notice a trend. It’s anger, frustration, withdrawal, upset like at first moping around. I hear I’m bored. I don’t know what to do. And then it has to be like an extended amount of time. And then all of a sudden I’m like, “There you are.”
Nathan [00:02:45] Yeah. Yeah. Which is, I mean, so cool to be able to see in your kids because that’s really what we want to do, Right? One of the major ways we know when parents come to me and go, “Nathan, is my kids tech a problem? Because as adults we have this concern. I’ll take another half step back. As adults, we have a concern that we’re just kind of standing on our front yard, on our front lawn with with a rake going kids these days, right? Like back in my day, uphill both ways. We feel sometimes that we just don’t get them and kids can feel that same like you just don’t understand this is what people do and we do need to understand like, sure, there are new ways to communicate and have fun and hang out with your friends that are very similar to what we did. They’re just digital now and there are some things that are just unhealthy. And what you mentioned, like when you see your kid pivot, you see this kid who is full of life and vibrant and amazing, and now they wilt somehow because they watch that show and they come away surly, or they’re on social media and they come away isolated. They come away from a video game and they’re bored, right? Nothing’s exciting, nothing’s good enough. The stuff they used to love and used to give them so much life and just bring out the best in them they don’t like anymore. And that’s the stuff that I point parents to. So. And I don’t want to steal my own thunder. I think we’ll get to it in a minute.
Sarah [00:03:54] Your story?
Nathan [00:03:55] Well, the story and how we can assess if it is a problem.
Sarah [00:03:58] Let’s do it right now. Launch into it.
Nathan [00:04:01] When we talk about Is my tech healthy? I made a little acronym called A Reset. And so I just ask parents to look at their child and then have the conversation with their child. This is not I’ll say this upfront. This is not a tool to win an argument. You’re not supposed to come away from this podcast to go, “Aha, I knew it!” Instead, it’s to start the next conversation again. My goal is to empower parents. I want parents to be able to talk about healthy tech, communicate the gospel clearly, and connect the hope of the gospel to their daily tech lives. That is my daily goal. So the reason reset does that great is because we go all right, does tech improve or impede your relationships and responsibilities? That’s the “R” of reset in the acronym. You can go all right is my kid better at the relationships and responsibilities when they use this tech? Maybe. They’re better at hanging out the friends they’re showing up for the sports on time. They’re part of our family dinners. They’re good to their siblings. They’re doing their schoolwork, their relationships, and the responsibilities are locked and loaded. That’s amazing. If not, if it’s impeding instead of improving. Now we have a conversation point. Right now, my talking point is a loving parent is not, “Man, I hate that video game” or “I don’t like that show.” It’s, “Hey, when you go and play that game, I’ve noticed that you quit doing your schoolwork. I’ve noticed that you quit hanging out with that group of friends. What’s going on?” And I’ll get in a moment why that matters. But relationships and responsibilities, the first second is our enjoyment. And I don’t mean does your kid really like video games, because video games are awesome. They’re really easy to like. They’re incredible. This is talking about that wilting. Does your child come away more alive after engaging in this tech? Or does it seem like they kind of invested a part of themself and then left it there and they don’t get it until they come back to it or until they talk about it or until something comes back around that subject. That’s our concern is really that pivoting and the I guess, the superimposing of this thing over the rest of their joint life, then the “S” is sleep. Basically, if they have what I would call drool tech in the bedroom. So two kinds of tech. You have tech that helps you create tech that helps you consume. So if they have tech that helps them consume in their bedroom, they’re probably having their sleep impacted. So smartphones, smart TVs, video game systems, no kid needs $1,000 alarm clock. So you can go on Amazon and buy a $30 one that works great. It just smartphones shouldn’t be in their room. It’s not helpful, but their sleep is the third on that reset. The fourth is emotions really being are the high highs, low lows tied to video games? And the last one is time. And really with time, I just want to get back to contentment. Can the child be content with the amount of time they get on their technology? So when we look at a reset, that then helps us understand, All right, is there even a problem here? If a child you can say, yes, tech improves every one of these, then great, your child’s fine and they can keep using that a healthy way. Have some boundaries so you can see when it starts to go off the rails, because at some point it might. But now we know reset. It’s healthy. This is okay for you in the season, child. Sometimes it’s a one out of five or two out of five or in my case with gaming, it was a five out of five on No like this impedes all of these areas in my life. And at that point we need to ask why.
Sarah [00:07:02] Before we do your specific story, I want to give a little further clarification between tool tech and drool tech. Because I’ve heard you explain it like Windows…Microsoft Word. It helps you create helps you get that paper done faster. Tool tech. Drool Tech is anything that…What is its aim?
Nathan [00:07:23] It’s designed to help you consume and it has another goal. It wants to take your time, your focus, and your money. And the reason that’s so important for us to understand that there are really two kinds of technology is because sometimes we just think of it as like one umbrella screen time, but they’re designed differently. So Microsoft Word is one of my favorite examples of at no point has Microsoft Word ever tapped you to 11 p.m., sent you a notification that’s been like, “Hey, I haven’t just noticed you haven’t been up here for a while.” Like you thought about writing on this document recently? Like it doesn’t do that and it doesn’t send you little excerpts of other people’s writing projects, like, “Do you know that Sally already started her book? Did you? Did you know it’s a way better than yours?” Like, it doesn’t do that. It’s because it’s designed as a tool. It’s meant to help you write. You can set it in the cloud, you can get edits from people all over the planet, which is amazing. When I’m doing some of my writing, One of our editors lives in South Korea. That’s incredible. I can do what I need to do and I can do it really well. But it waits for me. It’s a tool. Drool tech, it doesn’t mean bad tech. It just means that it is designed for what they would call engagement. And engagement really comes from habits. So they’re going to try to develop this piece of technology and your habits as a regular piece of how you accomplish life. That’s when kids are like, “Well, I don’t even know how to talk to my friends if I’m not…” Right. That’s this has become habitual. It’s just how you do it. And the end game on most of those is they want to take your time, your focus, your money. One of my favorite examples is YouTube. Again, I use YouTube. I have videos on YouTube. I like it as a resource, but it’s not tool tech because it’s actively fighting you. So they have more than a billion. In fact, I think there are 1.2 billion monthly users. So if they were able to get 1% of their users to stay one extra minute, they would be able to add more than 38 years of viewing in that month. Where tens of thousands of hours would be added if they could just get 1% to say, one minute. Well, three quarters of their views come from their suggested bar, and that means that someone went on YouTube looking for a do it yourself project and they watched their two minute video that they meant to watch. But then the suggested bar, if three quarters of the views come in the form of videos that people didn’t search themselves, they went online and they decided, I’m going to stay here for that extra minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 15 minutes. And that is how they get their revenue is that wasn’t your point. It’s okay to watch a 15 minute video, but the danger is drool tech can convince you you need things you never wanted. And that’s what the reason we care about it, especially with developing brains who are already having an underdeveloped frontal cortex, the part that inhibits our behavior and helps us go, “Oh, you know what? I want to do that, but maybe I shouldn’t?” They don’t have that part. It’s not done till mid-twenties, and that’s not a slight at young people. It’s a note for us as parents to say, Hey, if we know that this technology is designed for engagement and we know that kids can inhibit their behavior as well as adults. Then maybe we want to provide a buffer. Maybe we want to give him some space. Maybe we want to put loving boundaries where we say, “Hey, let’s put down our screens, kids, and go out and enjoy the rest of life” because they will overconsume, especially when it’s designed to be done that way.
Sarah [00:10:23] It’s so interesting because even at the time of this recording that you and I are doing, which is like the tail end of February, there was something in the news even today, something about a bill going before the Supreme Court. Are you aware of this? Where there’s like a a thing that’s can’t hold Google or anyone liable.
Nathan [00:10:43] Yeah. So that’s on the terror side. So that’s the extreme examples they’re using is, “Hey, ISIS posted.” Right? “They posted they’re gaining followers from this. You’re responsible for that.” But what they’re trying to do is use that as like the tip of the spear to say you’re also responsible when these other things happen. And that is a huge conversation when it comes down to, I mean, safety and free speech and, you know, the the rapacity with which we work online, we expect a 24 hour news cycle and we expect information well before it’s vetted just because we just information. There’s no bad information. It’s just. Okay. Well, we’ll correct that later and we’ll just keep putting out more info. So the current argument is, hey, Twitter, this stuff came out on your platform. You’re responsible for what this did to people because you need to vet it. There’s suits coming through when it comes to child trafficking and some of the content in those areas, it is really hard to know what is right. I will say, I mean Seattle school district just recently sued social media for its impact on youth health. I thought that was the study you’re going to come up with. So last week. So I guess whenever this comes out, February 13th, the CDC released a study with 2021 stats citing that three out of five teen girls had long durations of depression in the United States in 2021 and one out of three teen girls considered suicide. We recognize that that is correlated and actually a pair of researchers, Jonathan Haidt and Jean Twenge, argue that it’s causation. They have a 250 page Google doc I can send you that is actively being updated where they find more and more research saying, “Hey, here’s what social media is doing to our children’s minds.” Social media specifically, by the way, this isn’t television. This isn’t video games that we’re talking about. There’s something about the engagement and then the spiral that kids go into and their desire for more engagement and belonging that drives them to a really dark spot. And then the algorithmic side of it provides some content based on how they’re feeling. And teenagers don’t always feel great. And so it can push them to really dark fringes really quick. So drool tech and tool tech is important to understand because tool tech does not do that to us when you’re kids using AutoCAD. They’re not going to get overstimulated. They’re not going to get news feeds or any of those kind of engagement pieces. Drool tech isn’t necessarily bad, but it does have a goal and it’s tried to convince us that we need a habit that we didn’t want. So it is important for us to recognize when we’re using our own tech and parenting in a tech world.
Sarah [00:13:13] And in case you weren’t aware, like for example, TikTok, like one of the algorithm things that it can do is as you’re scrolling, if you pause like it’s scroll speed. So if you pause for just a second, it knows that it makes note of it. If you go backwards to go watch a video again or something and it is smart and I heard you say some sort of a statistic where within 10 minutes on TikTok finish that one.
Nathan [00:13:35] Yeah, within 10 minutes they, they have your profile nailed. So that was from a Wall Street Journal investigative reporting piece where they made 100 different accounts and they set them with a primary motivation and a secondary motivation kind of in the background, like, all right, this one’s going to be in athletics, but they’re also into, you know, gambling. And like they they made these hundred different profiles and within 10 minutes, TikTok had nailed their profile and had pushed them to the farthest out fringes of that. So it’s no longer just sports. It’s now, you know, sports injuries. It’s no longer just, you know, techno music. It’s some dark themes. Some of these profiles in the first 10 minutes were pushed to self-harm, eating or disordered eating stuff, talking about dieting and body image and just a bunch of mental health kind of self-help. But the fringe parts of it which are talking, we’ve okay. For example, there was a thing that happened on TikTok where social contagion is the psychological term of when kids see something and they start to kind of adopt it for themselves. So there was a whole group who started engaging in conversations about Tourettes and then started manifesting Tourettes symptoms. But they don’t have Tourettes syndrome. They just simply were picking up on it because they were being exposed to it for such long periods of time. And that’s kind of what we’re talking about, is this concept of kids being exposed to new ideas way faster than they can inhabit and farther out than they would have searched if they were given the option. They didn’t Google this stuff. It’s been fed to them by a program that, again, just wants their attention. It doesn’t necessarily care about their health.
Sarah [00:15:12] And the psychological reason that it pushes to the fringes is because the rewards center in our brain what it needs to have, like more stimulation or. What is that?
Nathan [00:15:22] Yes, it well, because it works is the short answer that they have found that when people get pushed to the fringes, that it’s the most interesting, it’s the most engaging. You get bored in the middle. And so it keeps trying to find you that next new piece. But it happened really, really fast. And unfortunately, now that novelty forces you to go find new novel things and we see that in any area of where we are seeking satisfaction from something in novelty that we constantly look for the new and it inevitably pushes a line of safety and wisdom. And that just happens really fast in social media sometimes.
Sarah [00:15:53] And TikTok does it in 10 minutes. The average amount of time that our kids are on a screen is about 7 to 9 hours a day.
Nathan [00:16:00] Eight and a half for teens. Yeah, five and a half for kids under 13.
Sarah [00:16:05] I promise you, there is a lot of hope left in this podcast, but we kind of have to we kind of have to call it what it is to get there. So I want to pause here because we’ve been talking about getting to your story, so let’s do that and then come back with some other thoughts.
Nathan [00:16:19] So my story in the technology, we’re going to go back a ways I’m going to start when I was eight. It really all started with with a little Mario brothers. My dad showed up one day with the Nintendo entertainment system and we sat down. I got four sisters, so we all sat in front of the giant tube TV and we played Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt on the same cartridge nonetheless. And my mind just kind of exploded like, this was good. That’s all I knew. And I loved video games from elementary school through middle school, through high school. This is before being a nerd was cool. No one grabbed that moniker for themselves. We were given that if people found out, but like you hid this stuff like you had like secret code words where you’d like name a character from a thing. And if someone like side eyed you, you’d be like, all right, we know about like no one of these people do. So like, keep it cool, man. Make them think we’re just athletes. So I kept playing. I always assumed I’d grow out of it because I didn’t know any adults who played video games. I mean, at the time there weren’t many. There were probably a few. But now the average age of gamers, 33, there’s 250 million gamers in the United States. That’s basically two thirds of the population. Yes, Mom’s playing Candy Crush counts as being a gamer. That’s $1,000,000,000 franchise.
Sarah [00:17:30] My game of choice is garden scapes, and you knew what level I was on. Your respect for me would plummet.
Nathan [00:17:38] Yeah, sometimes. Right? A confession. It’s good for the soul, bad for the reputation.
Sarah [00:17:42] Listen for podcasts. I listen to podcasts of spiritual nature in the background while I play.
Nathan [00:17:46] There we go. All right. Worship music is just, you know, but it is like those are games like that is you are a gamer. And that is really important for us to know when we talk about games, because most of modern video games are being made for someone like me, right? I game since I was eight, so I’ve had 30 years of scar tissue built up. So sure, like now Super Nintendo doesn’t do its PlayStations. One, two, three, four, five. Don’t do it. Like I need this thing set on my head and seared into my retinas. And if my head doesn’t smoke when I’m playing this like it’s not intense enough. But then we hand that to like an eight year old. And that kid’s like, That’s his baseline. He’s like, “This is now the new normal. Life is boring, video games are incredible.” And so I grew up until, man, I was through college. I had a master’s degree, a house, a wife, a career job as a teacher. And it was 2 a.m. one morning and I pushed myself back from my desk because full disclosure, my wife went to bed early because she’s part cat so she can go to bed at like 930 and just instant out and love it. And so that’s when I would game. And mostly because I had an inkling that I wasn’t healthy in my gaming and I didn’t want there to be any fights about it. And so what better way to stop a fight than just hiding it? By the way, it’s a terrible life choice. I just want to claim that now. But and this particular morning I had told myself I’d be done by midnight. My group I was playing with was bad and we kept losing. I was like, I just need one more win, just one more. And then 2 a.m., we lost again and I just shut it down. I was like, All right, I have to get up in 4 hours. It’s Sunday morning now. I’m going to get up and be cool so that Anna doesn’t ask lots of questions about why I’m so tired. Got in bed and I just said a little prayer, “Dear Lord, please help video games not be a problem. Help me be a good husband, a good teacher, and a good son of yours. Amen.” Passed out, woke up 4 hours later, pretended everything’s cool, went to church, and Pastor normally preaches through a book of the Bible. He said, “Today we’re taking a little side. We’re not going to go through this book with the Bible today we’re in talk about addiction.” Which I was like, “oh, this is, you know, really good. Someone here probably needs that.” But I don’t really remember much of the first half of the sermon because I was tired. I was up 5 hours ago at this point and I am having a hard time falling along until partway through the sermon. The pastor says, “If you’re asking God to help you manage your sin, you’re praying the wrong prayer. God doesn’t manage sin, He kills it.” And that was really spot on for where I had just been 5 hours previously and was like, “All right, Lord, I get it.” This isn’t for everyone in video games, by the way. This was for me. This was an ongoing conviction that every time I’d play a video game, I at no point finished that game and said, “Great video games are awesome. I’m so excited for real life.” Every time I finished a video game, I went, “Man, that was amazing. When can I get back? When can I make time in my schedule to come back and do this again? Because this is better than my job. This is better than hanging out with my friends. This is better.” Frankly, at that point, I would have said this was better than my wife. That’s terrible to say. I would not have said those words because I wasn’t an idiot. But deep down that’s how I was living. I was cutting corners. If my wife went for a three day thing with some friends, that’s awesome, because now I can do just uninhibited gaming time like 15 hour binges. Here I come because that’s unique time for me and I would have all sorts of excuses why it was fine. It’s my interest, it’s my passion, it’s my pastime, it’s whatever. But at the end of the day, there was heavy conviction. The pastor dropped this knowledge on me, and the Holy Spirit decided to light a little flame. And so that was the last day I played a video game. That was May 15, 2011, but three weeks later I was in my backyard digging a hole only semi morbidly. And I had a conversation with God. I put my shovel in the ground. I was like, “Wait, you mean to tell me that the rest of my life is wake up, go to work, come home, do more work, go to sleep, rinse and repeat, and then I die.” Like, that’s like this was my thing. This is what my friends do for fun. This is the reason I’m a teacher for summer breaks. Like I don’t need to travel. I want more time for gaming like and guilt free. I’m not ignoring anyone. Like I have no responsibility. I still have summer break and God simply asked a very loving but very specific question, which is…
Sarah [00:21:47] I feel like He always does that.
Nathan [00:21:48] Right? And it wasn’t even a fair one because it was, “Do you trust Me?”
Sarah [00:21:51] Ahh.
Nathan [00:21:52] As a boy. I mean, but like, you’re kind of skirting the point. “God, what I want to know is, why don’t I get to play video games?” And again, “do you trust Me?” “Like, well, what am I supposed to do instead?” “Do you trust Me? This is such an annoying answer. “Like, Yes, I trust You, Lord, because I’m doing it like I’ve gone three weeks. It’s like a world record for me. What am I supposed to do with this time?” And it wasn’t a specific answer. In fact, it came up in conversation as I was trying to figure out, is like, Well, I’m a teacher and I like seeing kids reach their potential. And someone at school mentioned Young Life and I was like, I don’t know, does the school have Young Life? We’re having an informational meeting I like, “Oh, I’ll go to that.” By the way listeners, if you ever get invited to an informational meeting about Young Life, it might go something like this. There’s 30 families that show up. They all introduce themselves, and at the end of the circle, I am turned to and introduced as Nathan Sutherland, Alan Young Life’s Leader. I’ve never been to a Young Life club at this point. I’ve never been to Young Life camp. I was like, I don’t like, that’s great and all. So I that began a decade journey with Young Life, which was fabulous and amazing. I learned lots, it’s great. And what I learned from that experience was, oh man, I am passionate about seeing kids reach their potential, but it’s even involves outside the classroom. So because my involvement with Young Life, I actually started a nonprofit. I worked half time teaching half time nonprofit the first three years and then stepped out of the classroom for the same reason I stepped in, which was my passion to see kids reach their potential and then started Gospel Tech because we want to see the gospel make its way into the tech lives of kids. And really this conversation right now between you and I is only happening because 11 and a half years ago the Lord asked me, “Do you trust Me?” And I think when we talk about technology, it isn’t Well, we got to get our tech choices right the first time. Every single time. It’s, in our tech choices do we trust that God is better? And I think that’s really there’s three takeaways. First, you need to understand that video games are awesome. Like listener. Your kid’s not wrong, they’re not crazy. Video games are incredible and they’re made by smart people that understand story and adventure and beauty. And there’s a lot going for video games. That’s just point one. Point two, is it God’s way better? People hear the story and sometimes take away like, “Yeah, if my kid just didn’t play video games, then things would be good.” Or “Nathan’s a great dude. He like, you know, pulled himself up by his bootstraps.” Don’t hear that. Like, that’s not what happened. I am literally that guy who went to a field and found treasure and sold everything he had. Like sometimes we look at that guy and like, “Oh, he’s so good. Like, he loves the Lord so much. He gave up everything for…” He gave up nothing. Like he sold his old house and his old rickety clothes and he bought a brand new clothes and drove his brand new car up to his castle. Like he got treasure, a field of treasure. He got a king’s ransom for a steal, right? That’s what I have. I lost nothing in giving up video games. Yes, I think they’re cool. But for me, they were unhealthy and they were stealing my opportunity to experience the full joy and purpose in Christ. And I would just encourage you and whatever God has challenged you on in technology or elsewhere, do you trust Him to be better than whatever that thing is He’s asking you to give up? And that’s the conversation when we talk about why am I working in technology? It’s because I’ve seen the limits of technology to bring joy and I’ve seen some of the confusion that comes from that. And I want to point people back to the source of hope in this that please play video games, but don’t let them steal the joy you have in Christ. Yeah, be on social media, but only let it produce the fruit of God from Galatians 5:22. Like if it’s use social media and it’s Love, joy, Peace, patience, kindness? Cool. If it’s the 5:19-21 where it’s jealousy and dissension and lust and anger, then maybe that’s not the best spot for you right now. Even though God can use social media. Maybe it’s not you at this season and the ideas always point it back to Do I trust God? Do I believe that He is better?
Sarah [00:25:32] Did you say there were three points? Because I feel like you two.
Nathan [00:25:34] I got excited. Yeah. Sorry. The first is that games are awesome. The second is that, well, you’re not giving up anything that God is better. And the third is just simply that question. I didn’t actually say it is. Do we trust Him? Is just the third point of this is asking whenever we use technology, are we using this because the hope we have in Christ, are we seeking hope through this thing so or using it from hope or for hope?
Sarah [00:26:01] It makes me think of three different artists that we play on the radio station here, and they had different circumstances, but a similar narrative, and I’m going to withhold the names of them because most people have heard of all three of these artists. But it went like this for two of them. They had an illness in high school that sidelined them and they were home for one of them was home for a year.
Nathan [00:26:30] Oh, my.
Sarah [00:26:32] Another one. I don’t know if it was quite that long. And then the third artist was actually in a terrible car accident and doctors were like, “He’ll never walk again.” He walked. “He’ll never talk again.” He talked. All three of them were given the gift of music in that time when they were recovering, two of them, their dads purchased them a guitar and they bedridden, learned how to thumb on a guitar, you know, and a passion was ignited in them. And then the one that didn’t get the guitar, she said that what it actually did was it solidified her time with the Lord and she felt like she says now from stage, she says, “If God takes you out for a season, get excited because He is doing a work in you that is preparing you for the next place that you’re going to land.” And she said that when she would look in the mirror, she would see stadiums and arenas, she could see herself. And it was like it was almost like a vision. It wasn’t a hope or dream ambition on her part. It was literally a vision. And she didn’t fully understand it now, but she’s completely living into it. So artists are Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North got the guitar. He was the one that was in the car accident. Chris Tomlin, who Time magazine is says is the most performed songwriter in the world. Right? So what that means is the songs he’s written have been translated into languages all across the world, and they’re sung in churches, like in more languages than you can ever count. He’s like America’s worship leader, but also the global worship leader. And the third one is Lauren Daigle.
Nathan [00:28:06] Oh, yeah.
Sarah [00:28:06] And. I think if any of them had have had access to a tablet, a smartphone, whatever technology of choice it was. Could they have potentially missed? The season that the Lord had intentionally put them in to find what they were most passionate about.
Nathan [00:28:29] Yeah.
Sarah [00:28:30] I wonder if that’s happening.
Nathan [00:28:31] Yeah, I would. Yes. Please. Parents pray for our kids on this because we see this happen in our own lives. Two things. First would be, yes, we need spaces of quiet and we need spaces of calm. And we often say, Well, I know what I don’t know. I go, I use my phone for my Bible, but notifications come in, right? Like there’s a reason I keep a physical paper Bible for my quiet time because there’s no notifications from my physical paper Bible and there’s lots of sticky notes, which is great for me. So I absolutely think that we need that down space in that quiet. I know John Mark Comber is someone I respect and admire. Pastor out of Portland who does an awesome job of pointing us back to like the need for quiet and kind of holy spaces of like, no like we’re going to create space in my life intentionally because I trust and value God like before He shows up, before I get any experience out of it. But I love God so I’m making a space for relationship in in here. And I would actually say this isn’t normally part of the story I share with the video game, but I think it’s really important. Oh man. So when when I quit video games within the next year, my wife and I found we were pregnant with our first kiddo and we were super pumped. And within three months we got some like news that maybe not everything was well with our kiddo. And within the next three months, we realized something was really off. And so this became like, Hey, we’re going to the doctor every week. And we don’t exactly know what’s going on. To the point where, like, when we eventually went into the doctor, we’re out at Tacoma General. Amazing doctors, incredible team, like some nation leading people when it comes to complicated birth. At first they thought it was spinal bifida and they’re like, “No, it’s not that.” It might be a couple of these other things. They thought it was Trisomy 18 for a little while. Like we think it’s a fluid sac on the brain. It wasn’t that like what’s what exactly is happening? So right about five, six months they pulled us in like, “Hey, like it’s not good.” And I remember the meeting we were sitting in the and the doctor’s office and the doctor comes in and she’s basically like, “It’s pretty complicated situation.” But I mean, we’d been doing this every week, like with regular checkups, with no real information. And we’re like, “Huh?” It’s like, “Yeah, it’s like this is a really tough case, right?” And like, at some point she had to be like, “Your baby’s not going to make it.” And we’re like, “Oh, like, what is happening exactly?” And so it ends up Amniotic Band syndrome is what it’s called. Typically, it happens either really early and the baby dies really early or makes it full term. But the baby’s missing like a limb or part portions of a limb. So the end there’s two sacks. You have the amniotic sac on the inside and then the uterus sac. But the amniotic sac has little fibers and they can break off and they kind of turn into a jellyfish. They wrap around the baby. Well, he had it around his torso. So Daniel was growing, but his heart had grown and his lungs weren’t developed. So he just didn’t have space for both. And I promise at that point that if I still had video games as my outlet, I would have been a horrible husband. Like, best case scenario, I would have been a terrible husband and no one would to blame me. I mean, we were planning a birthday and a funeral for our firstborn child and it was awful. And by the way, listeners, this isn’t something where I’m like, But God is good…God is good. This situation was terrible. We’re not happy it happened. We’re happy that God’s good, even though it happened. Full end of the story is he came early. Our family wasn’t even in town because we had a planned C-section. He kept living that for the first like month and a half after. Like, don’t go anywhere. Like, just stay in your home, like this baby’s coming any day. And then, like, he didn’t show up and we had like multiple weekly appointments. And then eventually they were like, “All right, well, we need to plan for a birth. So like, let’s put a C-section on the schedule.” And then he decided to show up early. So he came two weeks early, which was great because we didn’t know what to do with his day getting closer. We didn’t know how to process this grief and excitement. And we got to meet him. And he lived 10 minutes and our family got to meet him. And it was a beautiful picture of God’s provision for us. But still, just like the brokenness, like medicine couldn’t fix it. Doctors could barely explain it. We had one godsend of a nurse who told people to bring a camera, which were like, Why? Why would we want a camera? We have pictures of Daniel up in our house. We never would have thought that you’d want to remember this day. And some people may not. But like this nurse took pictures of, like, everything. So we have really sweet pictures. And we ended with just this brokenness. But we were so broken together. I wasn’t in a space where I had to run to another world to feel calm and present. I was able to be just broken with my wife and I had no answers and no expectation we did. People came and just prayed with us, worshiped around us, like when we didn’t feel like singing to God. They worship God for us and just songs of of promise. The God is good. I don’t know. It’s a hard situation. What I would say is when God is asking you to lay something down, He’s not doing that because He’s mean. He’s asking you to trust Him. And if He’d said, “Yeah, give up your video games because your firstborn son is going to die.” I would have freaked out like I wanted answers. And God graciously was like, “Yeah, no, you really don’t. You really don’t want answers.” Because, like, if that was still our firstborn son and I had said, “Great, well, we just won’t have any kids.” Well, we wouldn’t have had two, three and four, right? We wouldn’t have Owen, Henry Hadley if I had been like, “Well, I don’t want experience that loss, so I just want to have any kids now. God, because now I know what’s going to happen.” And instead God very graciously carried us through that hard season. He has provided us with other blessings. I’m not going to say that they’ve made this okay because they haven’t, like we missed Daniel. We really wish we got to see ten year old Daniel, but we go to see nine year old Owen and seven year old Henry and three and a half year old Hadley and then talk about their brother and apparently occasionally tell people that they have a brother who’s not alive. And so we have people like one of your kids died. I’m like, “Oh, which kid told you?” Like, sorry, you just mentioned this in carpool, but in this story to recognize that whether it’s technology or not, the Lord is good in His request of how He processes our journeys and what He’s asking us to lay down and pick up. And for me, it was video games. And I can absolutely see in the rearview that God was providing me the opportunity to be present with my wife because I would not have just been able to make the right decision. Even though I knew it was bad, people would have cut me slack like, “Oh, I mean, come on, man. Like, he’s going through a lot right now. Like, of course he’s going to handle this hard.” And it still wasn’t pretty, but I was able to be present and forced to go back to the Lord because I didn’t have my crutch of 20 plus years to lean back on. So I can hear those stories of those musicians who saw the Lord working in that. And I’ve seen Him work in this area. And that’s part of what fanned my passion to talk about technology, because tech wasn’t the problem, my heart was. But the solution, again, wasn’t willpower. It was trusting God and knowing that He’s still good.
Sarah [00:35:16] So honored that you shared something that you don’t usually share because it lends to the the deepest part of this conversation. It’s not, like you say, a checklist, unhealthy habits with your tablet. You know, it really goes to the deepest level, the way you were present for your wife and fully showing up for what God has for us in the identity that He gave us. When you were a young kid talking in class and all your teachers are not surprised that you’ve landed where you have operating in all of your gifting fully on display, basically saying, Lord, I get one. What is Mary Oliver say Wild and precious life? I’m so thankful that you would invite us in. If you want to find out more from Nathan. He has Gospel Tech. It’s an incredible podcast and he’s also available to speak at live events and wonderful at it. You’re absolutely operating and your gifting.
Nathan [00:36:14] Thank you.
Sarah [00:36:19] Thanks so much for being here today on The Passion Meets Purpose podcast. We’re going to talk again in two weeks. But in the meantime, if you want to do us a huge favor, obviously you know this by now. If you leave a review, it really helps others to find this podcast. It also helps us to make it better and then you can contact us any time at purposely podcasts. Until next time. Thank you.