At the beginning of Lent, Alan let you in on our plans for this season (aka, a surefire way to cause unwanted and unplanned media loss withdrawals). I’m kidding…but only a little. (If you didn’t read that post, you can see it on our website here.)
You would think, wouldn’t you, that people who run an organization called Unhurried Living wouldn’t have issues with cultural pressures like social media imagery envy or binge watching unnecessary shows on Netflix, right?
I want to clarify here that our choice is not simply about fasting from certain media or screens. It is about leaning into the process that Alan has been teaching for years: the difference between the cycle of Driven Achievement / Mind-Numbing Escape, and the cycle of Work is Given / Rest is Given. (See An Unhurried Life, chapter 7).
I thought I would give you a real-life update (including a confession) on my process in this first half of Lent.
Thursday, the day after Ash Wednesday, was our first real day of fasting from mind-numbing escape in the evening. Here are a few of the reasons I compulsively reached for, and then realized I had chosen not to reach for, my phone:
- Text sons regarding dinner. (I had to walk upstairs and talk to them in person.)
- Check the weather. (Had to wait until the next day to figure out what to wear.)
- Take a photo of the lovely candles I lit for ambience while I read (Do I always have to be interesting and inspiring, even in mundane events like lighting candles? Too much pressure.)
- Order a coloring book on Amazon. (That’ll help pass the time.)
- Check the time. (Must solve the fact that my phone is my clock.)
Because I was nervous about having “nothing to do” but read in the evenings, I decided to move my workouts to just prior to dinner. (That’ll pass the time, I thought). Just this one small move has reinvigorated my entire day. I can move easily through my morning routine into my workflow, and before dinner I get to cardio-dance-it-up.
By Saturday after Ash Wednesday, the need for the phone seemed to quiet some, simply by unhooking from it for two evenings. And on Sunday, it wasn’t until the end of the day that I realized that I had not checked social media even once. I felt lighter inside. It turns out that all that mindless scrolling is not actually peaceful.
It was five days into Lent and I could report that my compulsive need for my phone had subsided greatly. For work, I still use my phone all day, but only as necessary. At night, my questions go unanswered (Who was that guy in that great movie from 1995? Who cares?). My vain need to be interesting for social media gets a rest. And I wait until the next morning to find out what the weather will be so I can decide what to wear.
Before you begin to think this all sounds too spiritual and easy, let me say that… you are correct.
The very next day Alan left for the Dominican Republic. I then promptly rationalized that I could not possibly keep the evenings media free without someone else in the house doing the same thing (in case you forgot, I am a busy minded extrovert). Alan’s grounding presence was removed, and I could not foresee continuing the process while he was gone.
So, you know how some say that you get one day off a week in Lent from your fast? Well, I took all of those days and smushed them together in Alan’s absence. Yes. I broke my Lenten fast for one week. Even as I write these words, I can feel the shame rising in my belly.
I really wish I could say that I am a paragon of self-control and that, as the days went by, I didn’t miss my mind-numbing escape. But I did.
At this point, half way through Lent, I am experiencing what I can only call withdrawal. Remember, at the beginning, I mentioned driven achievement and mind-numbing escape. It appears that I still struggle with this pattern. But Lent is like a huge flashlight shining a light into my soul. And a still, small voice is whispering, “Work is given. Rest is given.”
A couple of Sundays ago, our pastor gave an inspiring sermon about Lent. He said that it was good to narrow the focus of our lives for a bit, keeping it simple. He also said that it is good to have a “beginner’s mind” about things: no fear of mistakes; it’s ok to try things, fail and try again; there are no dumb questions, etc.
He said that Lent is really about creating space in our lives so that we can be the bearer of this alternative possibility: I am a beloved child of a redeeming God.
So, after all of my confessing, the real question is, will I continue creating this space in my life? And will I remember, under all of this, that I am a beloved child of a redeeming God?
Maybe it’s not perfection that is to be achieved in Lent–maybe it’s direction, intention, uncovering, confessing, failing, and trying again.
I am in the trying again part. If you have been struggling with your Lenten journey, it’s okay. No judgments here. Just pick it back up and try again. Let’s hear the wisdom again…
Lent is really about creating space in our lives so that we can be the bearer of this alternative possibility: I am a beloved child of a redeeming God. (Todd Hunter)
All jokes and confessions about Lent, social media, binge watching shows and phone addiction aside, I am choosing to create space in my life so that more of the goodness of God can sink in. I do actually long to be the bearer of this alternative possibility:
I am a beloved child of a redeeming God.
And so are you.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash