It’s Lent. I’m a member of the Methodist Church I grew up in, and Methodists don’t have hard rules like Catholics do about this season—not eating meat on Fridays, and “giving something up” for the 40 days prior to Easter. But I thought I understood the symbolism of the Catholic Lenten tradition, anyway.
Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent, before beginning his public ministry, fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by the Devil. In most of the West, it begins on Ash Wednesday.
I attended my first-ever Ash Wednesday church service this year. I knew people always left those things with ashes on their forehead, but I really didn’t understand why, and I had no idea what to expect during the service.
We prayed for open hearts as we entered into an attitude of worship, and sang a couple traditional hymns. Then our pastor asked us a profound question:
“What is ONE thing in your life that you know is hindering your faith and your relationship with God?”
I’m sure all of us there could think of several roadblocks, but we needed to pick one. Mine stood out quite clearly in my mind. ADDICTION. I am without a doubt, addicted to my phone and computer. TV isn’t a huge one for me, but the other two…it’s bad.
The instant gratification of social media, text messaging, and browsing consumes me. I rarely go 20 minutes without at least glancing at one of my screens.
Yet, how often do I pray? I think about God a lot, but actually praying? We say Grace before meals and sometimes I remember to pray before I fall asleep at night. Definitely not enough. If I only spoke to my husband once or twice a day for just a few short minutes, our relationship would suffer. So it only makes sense that my relationship with God is suffering from my lack of prayer.
Pastor Bill had us write our confessions down on a slip of paper, fold it up so no one could see it, and take it to the front of the church where he had a Cast Iron pot set up on a table. We all dropped in our papers and returned to our pews. He took a lighter and proceeded to set fire to our confessions.
I can think of multiple interpretations of this demonstration. For me, that night, I interpreted it as a call to incinerate the habits that are keeping me from having a closer relationship with God.
The ashes from the cast iron pot were used to mark a cross on our foreheads, reminding us of the greatest sacrifice in history.
In closing, Pastor Bill encouraged us to use this Lenten season as a time to focus on repenting from the things on our slips of paper to improve our faith.
Before that service, I had tossed around the idea of giving up something like French fries or candy for Lent. After that service I understood that it wasn’t just about doing something difficult, it was about repentance for the sake of faith.
Separating From My Screens
I have to use my phone and computer during the day for work, but at night, I really have no NEED to be on them. So I decided that during this Lenten season, the evening hours will belong solely to my family and my Lord.
After 5 pm, the TV goes off, phones get plugged into chargers away from quick reach, and computers and tablets are shut down. For the rest of the evening, it’s less-tech time. Music and phone calls are still allowed, but no texting, social media, video games, etc.
So far, we’ve used this time to do things like:
- Play games
- Ride bikes and go for walks
- Cook dinner and make desserts together
- Read books and magazines (with actual paper pages)
- Do puzzles
- Go to the gym
- Visit face-to-face with extended family and neighbors
- Work on hobby projects
- Jump on the trampoline
- Make crafts
- Draw and color
It’s really been great! I feel much more present. My kids have been insanely cooperative. We’ve been going to bed earlier and I’ve been sleeping MUCH better. And most importantly, I’ve been spending more time in prayer, both before bed and in the morning when I wake up.
It has been a couple weeks since Ash Wednesday and my Screen Free After Five time has been an absolute blessing in our home! I may have started this because of Lent, but I have every intention of maintaining this new House Rule.
How About YOU?
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