As the meagerness of Lent flows into Easter joy and abundance, God turns my head backwards to see how far she (God, that is) and I have come together. Without is a four-part blog post series of theological reflection upon my Lenten fasts. Like a prickly pear blooming in the harsh desert climate, O how God’s handiwork is often most clearly on display in bereft times.
“When does Lent ‘officially’ end?”
Various answers bounced around my extended family’s dinner table a week or so ago. One family member proclaimed that Lent ends the Wednesday before Easter. Once Holy Week services begin, she said, Lent is done. Another person said on Good Friday. Former Catholic me said Easter Sunday. We all shared a laugh.
“Does it matter?” someone asked. We looked at one another and shrugged our shoulders. I suppose each of us will be breaking our Lenten fasts at different times. The cool part is that all of us were fasting in some way. Each person sought to draw nearer to God.
As a child I was like a rabid squirrel as the end of Lent neared. I gave up chocolate annually. Based on the way that I acted on Good Friday, one might think that my life depended upon chocolate. Just…two…more…days! On Easter Sunday I gorged myself. I made it through the fast. But I learned little-to-nothing of the purpose of it.
That day at the family dinner table, I drifted away in thought. Amongst other things, I’d chosen to fast from social media throughout Lent. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Pinterest. For six weeks. Some might say this is occupational suicide for a writer, especially a writer such as me who is still building her platform. True no one lives by bread alone, but from what I’ve read it seems that budding writers live by their words exploding virally across the internet. Nonetheless, social media was part of my fast.
Would I rush to the computer on Easter Sunday the way that I used to sprint towards my Cadbury Egg laden Easter basket?
I prayed silently that I would not. I had reason to be concerned.
I reached for my smart phone a lot during Lent. I checked my email incessantly, or at least it seemed that way. Whenever there was a lull in my day, I reached and checked. Sitting at a traffic light? Reach and check. Fresh out of the shower? Reach and check. Waiting in the carpool line to pick up my daughters from school? Reach and check. Not quite sure what I wanna do next? Reach and check. At least I’m not pulling up Facebook or Twitter, I thought. Minor moral victory. Still, I noticed my behavior. It was not good.
What is going on with me?
I stared into space as I grappled. My mind felt fragile and disturbed like a skimpy footbridge that links two cliffs across a canyon that tosses and turns in a turbulent wind. Discomfort rose within my spirit. I wondered if I would drown. In the midst of wrestling, God pierced me with the truth.
I couldn’t stand the silence. I couldn’t stand the stillness. I couldn’t stand not occupying myself. What was I afraid of?
“Why are you so afraid of silence?” asks Rumi. “Silence is the root of everything. If you spiral into its void, a hundred voices will thunder messages you long to hear.”
I was afraid to listen. I didn’t want to be alone with myself. I didn’t want to hear the voices of my own needs, my childhood wounds that had been recently triggered. I didn’t want to acknowledge emotional work that is yet undone. (I’ve been in therapy for the better part of four years. Seriously? I have more to do?) I didn’t want to grieve…again. I didn’t want to feel pain that I’d buried long ago, pain that explodes out of me like a volcanic eruption once I tap into it and let it go.
No, I said, as I reached and checked again. Much better to keep going, remain stimulated, and disallow silence and nothingness.
But God had something else in mind — connection, soothing, healing. And all it would cost me was time away from the clamor of social media. Blessed be the name of the Lord who gives and takes away.
How about you? Have you ever thought about your social media use? What might happen if you fasted from social media for a while?
- Without: What I gained from my Lenten fast from writing (revangiem-n.com)