Another thought for consideration is this. Lent doesn’t necessarily have to be all about giving something up, it can also be centered on adding something, or doing things differently. Taking on. Perhaps that works better for some, the idea of adding rather than subtracting. Good examples of this are “I am giving up watching T.V. for one hour per night and I will spend that hour doing “X” instead”. Maybe “X” is a healthy physical activity or spending quality time with a spouse or family member or focusing on one’s spiritual growth by reading scripture.
Two years ago, I gave up Facebook for Lent. Initially, I received a lot of flak about it (“I thought you were supposed to give up booze or red meat or candy for Lent!”) but I didn’t listen because I knew it was going to be tough for me. And, it was. There was quite a bit of reasoning behind why I chose to do this, not the least being, it seemed to me that I was spending far too much time on Facebook. Yes, I might scoff at those who are enraptured with watching “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol”, but, of course, that would make me a hypocrite, wouldn’t it? When it all comes down to it, a little bit of certain things is an indulgence, more than a little bit could possibly mean an idol. Ok, ok; no one is worshipping golden calves here, but the more a person studies the Bible, the love story of God’s chosen people and their covenant relationship with Him, the more you realize that idols are really anything that keeps you from honoring God. Is Facebook evil? Is T.V. evil? Is reading romance novels evil? It’s all wrapped up in what else you are doing in and with your life.
Anyway. Two years ago, I was successful in my Lenten Journey. Afterwards, I had all sorts of interesting insights into the experience, as well as ideas on how I would approach my relationship with Facebook (and other social media) in the future. If you’re curious, read this. I’ll tell you up front, I’m being totally honest by divulging this entry to you because, after you read it, you’ll realize that, although I was successful in giving up Facebook for Lent, I haven’t exactly kept all of my promises. I’m wondering if this might sound familiar to some of you. We try, we succeed. We screw up. We’re forgiven. We keep trying because we’ve been forgiven. Or, as one of my Pastors would say, “We just keep swimming”.
Back to the give and take. If you give something up, it sort of stands to reason that by filling the void with something else, you don’t miss what you gave up quite so much. When people are attempting to quit smoking, they might replace the cigarette in their fingers with a carrot stick or pretzel rod. Or, they may find ways to fill the time that they would have spent smoking by taking a long walk or going to see a movie. Someone facing the end to a relationship may find themselves seeking out other people to spend time with so they are not lonely.
With regards to Lent, I think it makes perfect sense that, when you give something up, you should be replacing it with something that will bring you closer to God. In this, the possibilities are endless, limited only by our imaginations and our pride. Heck, even if a person chooses not to give anything up, there isn’t any reason why they couldn’t simply add a new behavior for this period of time.
Last year, I gave up alcohol for Lent. Although it wasn’t always easy, especially when dining out or when we had company, it wasn’t dreadful, either. I wanted to see that I could do it (probably not a bad thing for all folks who drink alcohol to try from time to time) and I did lean heavily on Jesus during this time lest I be tempted. However, a few weeks in, and I wasn’t even thinking about it overly much. Believe it or not, given up Facebook proved more challenging.
So here I am in 2014 and once again, I’ve decided to eliminate Facebook from my life until Easter. Why? Because it’s still a stumbling block; it remains too much of a time suck. Although I like to believe that my on-line persona has improved in her kindness towards others, I’m still a long way from exhibiting grace. Giving up Facebook this time, however, is a tad trickier because much of what I do on my phone and laptop is automatically connected with Facebook; plus, it’s still my number one go to place to get connected with my family and friends. Sad, but true. I find myself wondering if, like two years ago, I’ll pass the next month and a half in relative solitude since people seem to have forgotten how to call or email or text (let alone read my Blog!); yet, I am reminded of the duality of this (and the subject of this post): I am giving Facebook up but I am using that time to do other (hopefully) God-pleasing activities. “Give me the desire to obey your laws…keep me from paying attention to what is worthless”. Psalm 119:36-37 (TEV).
Up Next: Let No Evil Talk Come Out of Your Mouth