If God were trying to tell me something, would I know? If God were reassuring me or challenging me, would I notice? I ask for the grace to be free of my own preoccupations and be open to what God is saying to me.
– From the Sacred Space meditations
We are into the second week of Lent, and I am fasting from Facebook and commenting on social media. Every once in awhile Sue will read me some post on her Facebook news feed that, at first reaction, would appear to demand an impassioned response from me. Then I think about the futility of spending precious time arguing on Facebook and am reminded of the pie chart at right. So the urge passes.
(Technically, a blog is social media and I am commenting here. And, under full disclosure, I am Tweeting occasionally. But my relationship to Twitter is less addictive and more related to spirituality and work.)
Sue, for her part, gave up caffeine and has been sticking to it. In 2006, she gave up smoking cold turkey and has not taken a puff since. She had been smoking since she was a teen-ager, quitting only for pregnancy. In light of her Lenten fasts, giving up Facebook seems pretty lightweight.
Ever since I became an Episcopalian in 2005, I have been drawn to the season of Lent. Lent should feel different, even in your day-to-day work and home life. I have noticed that our worship attendance is up the first two Sundays in Lent, which is much more meaningful than that spike we get on Easter Sunday. It is very difficult for people to slow down and consider our relationship to God, those elements of our lives that are not spiritually healthy, and how we can address them. Giving up Facebook was intentional; for me, it is a time waster akin to binging on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Did I mention that I will be 60 this year?
So here is what I am replacing Facebook with. My simple Lenten goal is to remember that it is Lent.
- At church, we are doing a four-week study of “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, who happens to be a Delaware native. If you are not familiar with Bryan, I urge you to watch his Ted Talk. I have not read “The New Jim Crow,” but this is a dramatic page-turner in the same vein, focused on real people whom Bryan met and tried to help. It has sparked some passionate discussion and, I hope, action on race and injustice. Speaking in broad terms, our capacity to ignore Jesus’ directives on love, redemption, forgiveness, compassion and justice is breathtaking.
- I am reading “Sacred Space for Lent 2016,” a series of Lenten meditations by the Irish Jesuits. It’s available on Kindle for $1.66 and hardcover for $1.75. I like it because each week starts with a meditation that you return to every day so that it might actually sink in after reading it seven times. Before getting to the Scripture for the day, there are a series of questions that prompt you to consider your spiritual state. My favorite (they repeat themselves over time) is in the quote box above.
- Then there is my chronic attempt to practice centering prayer, which is simply resting in God’s presence and listening for at least 15-20 minutes every day. OK, it sounds simple. How do you let go of thoughts and just dwell on what seems like nothingness? I have actually been helped this season by two prayer “tools”: a neat, free Centering Prayer app for my iPhone and this wonderful book, “Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening,” by Cynthia Bourgeault. It is an informational and transformational how-to.
If you are familiar with the DISC personality profile, I have always been an off-the-charts D. D is for Dominance. Results-oriented, bottom-line organizers who like to be in charge. Yeah, baby! I once asked my former priest, rather impatiently, how I could take my faith “to the next level” and she just laughed and said that was a “Lee Ann question.”
If you are expecting “results” during Lent, well, they will appear if you can be “free of your own preoccupations and open to what God is saying to you,” as Sacred Space suggests. But “results” will not come in the form of a Lenten report card or punched ticket to the “next level.”