This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Kehrberg: A Fitbit for what matters most

Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. . . . Yet. — Anne Shirley

My daughter received a Fitbit for Christmas. For those unfamiliar with this technological accessory: it looks like a wristwatch, and it is meant to help the wearer get fit — in the physical sense.

Sarah Kehrberg

Most famous for counting one’s steps, it also tells you how many hours you slept, how many calories you burned, and can ding alarms to alert you if you are behind in any of your goals.

Oh, and it tells the time and date. I suspect this is its most oft-used function.

The week after Christmas we spent eight hours in the van. When we stopped for a gas and bathroom break, the Fitbit got my daughter’s attention by vibrating and exclaimed, “Let’s get moving!” So positive.

For a couple months I imagined the Fitbit was self-sustaining. Motion sensors, pulse reader, perhaps a microphone to speak goals and concerns.

But no, of course, this isn’t the case. The Fitbit is “synced with your device.” This means that, at all times, the Fitbit is communicating wirelessly to your computer, smartphone or any of the other options.

It took me awhile, but eventually I realized that my daughter’s iPod was forwarding text messages to the Fitbit.

Sigh. Yet another screen to monitor; yet another interface with the world I need to try and understand.

The lure of the Fitbit is strong. It caters to our need for control, hard data and noble priorities.

Mostly I was filled with curiosity. How many steps would I take in a normal day, without trying?

My daughter generously offered me her tech toy, and I strapped it on, ready for action.

I purposely chose a grocery day. I generally crisscross the store multiple times and figured that would pad my results.

I parked the van beside the buggy return corral furthest from the store. In every parking lot that day I sought the furthest spot. I took extra trips up and down the stairs. I didn’t get irritated when I set something down thoughtlessly and had to go back and get it.

As long as the Fitbit was on my wrist, I put my energy and attention toward attaining the reward of a large step number. One could say it consumed me.

What would happen if we had a way to track other priorities?

How many kind words did I say? How many critical words did I muffle? How many times did I express gratitude?

How many seconds was I able to rest in the fact that God loves me? When did I notice Christ in another person?

Oh, to have a Fitbit for these things.

On one hand, such quantitative measures could easily lead to either unhealthy pride or guilt. But on the other hand, I’m curious to know how I’d rearrange my daily habits. What would my life be like if my consuming priority was to get higher numbers in “Generous Thoughts and Actions” and lower numbers in “Minutes I Thought About Myself.”

For me, much of this would start in my head and heart. Could I learn to consistently catch and banish a judgmental thought? Or remember to seek the Spirit’s wisdom before taking action?

Frankly, I’m not overly optimistic. However, this I bear in mind, and therefore I have hope: God’s love is steadfast, and his mercies are new every morning.

I can always restart the Fitbit and try again.

Sarah Kehrberg lives in Swannanoa, N.C., and attends Asheville Mennonite Church.

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