Last spring, I was attending the Mockingbird Conference in New York when my phone died. Like, straight up died. The battery was charged, but nobody was home. It didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye. It just died.

I don’t know how other (normal) people react to this kind of situation, but I panicked. “My plane ticket to get home lives in there,” was my rationalization for panicking, but really my addiction to everything on my phone had me hyperventilating a bit. Texting, e-mailing, and all of the things that remind me that “I’m important, dammit” live on my phone. Crap.

I ran back to my hotel room and booked an appointment at the Apple Store in Grand Central Station, and somehow got myself there without the benefit of my phone’s GPS. While I was waiting in the store for my Genius Bar appointment, I had no phone to entertain me, and so I changed all of the screens of the iPads and laptops on display to (You’re welcome, DZ.) I will admit that I had a hard time knowing what to do with my lonely head space without a phone to answer e-mails and texts, or check social media. I couldn’t share a photo of Grand Central Station on Instagram, or tell all of my Facebook friends that MY PHONE DIED.

This might be the point of the story when other (normal) people say, “And that’s when I realized that I had a problem, and that I was addicted to my phone and all of its entrapments.” Not me! I just wanted it to be fixed because my plane ticket lived in there, and that’s why I was having a hard time finding my breath.

I finally met with a very kind man at the Genius Bar who asked me when was the last time I had completely turned off my phone.

“Like, turned the sound off?” I asked.

“No ma’am, the last time you turned it completely off.”

“Why on earth would I do that?” I asked him, genuinely. (Couldn’t he see that I was important, and that people needed access to me AT ALL TIMES, and by the way my plane ticket lived on my phone, in case I haven’t mentioned that?)

“Ma’am, our phones, like people,” he said pointedly, trying to maintain eye contact as my eyes darted around the room in a panic, “get overwhelmed. They need a break. They need to be turned off to rest every once in a while. Your phone got overwhelmed.”

He made me promise that I would let my phone rest more often, and sent me on my way with a rejuvenated phone, relieved and probably not as embarrassed as I should have been.

The next day, Apple e-mailed me to ask me to rate my experience at the Genius Bar. The subject line was “How was your experience with Gabriel?” Gabriel was apparently the name of the genius at the Genius Bar.

So basically an angel told me that I needed to give my phone—and myself—a break. Message received, God. Thanks so much.

It’s no wonder my phone is overwhelmed. I looked at a series of texts from one week this fall, when my husband was out of town and my life was falling apart.

  • “Rowan made the math team!”
  • “I think the dog is dying.”
  • “After-school program can pick Rowan up from math team, so we don’t need to worry about that.”
  • “The dog is definitely dying.”
  • “Here’s the video of Rowan saying the pledge over the loudspeaker announcements at school! So proud!”
  • “Don’t forget the inhaler when you pick up the kids.”
  • “I think I’m getting sick.”
  • “Rowan is so excited about the math team.”
  • “The dog is getting worse. Also: the house smells.”
  • “I’m getting worse, too, but good news—my doctor can call something in for me, so yay?”
  • “We need to pick up a parade float from another mom tomorrow—I’ll send you her address. Also, we need plywood from Lowe’s for a social studies project. Jesus deliver us.”
  • “I made an appointment for the dog tomorrow. I’ll have the boys say goodbye tonight. I don’t know how they’re going to react. Do you think we should bring them with us to the vet?”
  • “Don’t forget you need to get an outfit for the 80s auction for the kids’ school.”
  • “Did you pay the dentist when you were there? We should use the FSA before we use the HSA.”
  • “I got a flat tire on the way into the vet’s office. But they’re so nice—they’re going to call roadside assistance for me.”

That’s just a snippet of a few days of my phone life, and if I were my phone, I’d probably call it quits, too. I feel like my phone, and my little family life, is a microcosm of what Houston has experienced over the last several months—not the dead dog and flat tire, but the hurricane and its aftermath. And not the kid making the math team and saying the Pledge of Allegiance, but the Astros winning the World Series.

We are all so very tired.

I’d like to say that this whiplash of good news and bad news is a phenomenon of the 21st century, but the Psalms tell the same story from a few thousand years ago. Psalm 89 goes from “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever” to “How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” in just a few dozen verses. The Psalmist was not short on drama, either (from Psalm 6): “I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” Or from Psalm 88: “You have put me in the lowest pit…darkness is my closest friend.” These are not the psalms of cross-stitch samplers and Pinterest memes (not yet anyway…I’m working on that).

In the same book we have psalms of praise: “How majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9) and “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy!” (Psalm 96:11-12). Totally meme-worthy. These are the things you’d find on a page-a-day calendar, but they don’t tell the whole story, of course.

I don’t recall a Genius Bar being available in Old Testament times, but I’ll admit I haven’t read through Numbers with a fine-toothed comb lately. But reading the psalms of lament and the psalms of rejoicing reminds me that this back-and-forth of high and low is nothing new. Our humanity makes us unpredictable and annoying, sometimes out loud. We are overwhelmed, and we need a Savior. Advent seems as much of a time as any for folks to feel overwhelmed. We have gift lists and parties and the godforsaken norovirus, and travel plans and cards to send. At Christmas, though, is a tiny baby, born in a manger and announced by Gabriel, who grew up to promise that that the sin of our self-centeredness would be taken away from us. That he was born in the lineage of the emotional-whiplash-Psalmist is part of the story of our human frailty, and His willingness to enter into that frailty to save us from ourselves.

I still don’t turn off my phone as often as I should. I haven’t done anything to simplify or live my best life now, because I have a family and somebody needs to buy tickets to the new Star Wars movie and schedule the holiday music concerts. I like a little bit of this chaos, even if it does overwhelm my phone and my long-suffering husband at times. I’m grateful for the Love that came down at Christmas to walk with us through the chaos and the mess, both in lamenting and in rejoicing.