I don’t know if this really counts as Day 1, since I logged into Facebook this morning, saw that a bunch of other friends will be fasting Facebook over Lent, and then, after some thought, later announced my own Facebook break. So it’s more like Day 0.5.
(Any Christian calendar nerds out there can tell me if today is Day 0 or 1?)
And today is Ash Wednesday. Sadly, the kids and I did not go anywhere to get our ashes today. But here are pictures of Sam and Grace from two years ago to make up for it. Daddy put their ashes on at a campus service. Weren’t they sweet, and as one colleague said, looking sufficiently penitent?
By the way, I explained the concept of fasting to Sam yesterday and – on his own – he said, “Like fasting from Legos?” Um, YES! In his own words, it’s about “not doing something and when you want to do it, it makes you think of God.” YES! But… no, I did not make the poor kid fast from Legos, that would just be cruel. Legos are like his play and education and oxygen all at once. We’re still working on finding an appropriate fast for Sam. But as I ponder that, you may be asking, in the first place:
So what is fasting, you may ask — some kind of antiquated self-flagellation we’re bringing back for kicks? Some kind of legalistic Extra Credit for getting into heaven? No and… no. I grew up in a highly conservative Evangelical environment that despised any form of legalism: that is, perceived ways of “earning” God’s salvation/favor. This is not that (and frankly I find the term “legalism” itself somewhat problematic, but that’s a subject for another post).
As you may guess from my blog name, Grace is what it’s all about for me. Not my middle daughter, though she’s cute, but I mean the incredible grace of God that is the heartbeat of our Christian faith and is enfleshed in Jesus Christ, “full of grace and truth.” And, as I’ve come to learn, it is precisely the grace of God that compels me to want to experience more of who He is and the goodness of the life he has to offer by engaging in practices that help me refocus and build spiritual discipline. To that end, we fast.
Lent, the 40 days before Easter, is traditionally a time for Christians to fast as it allows us to clear all the clutter from our lives to make room for what God wants to give us. To silence the noise in our hearts so that we can be free to hear him. To come to deep repentance (that is, turning and walking away from) of our vices, big and small, so that we can glorify God most fully — a glory that is embodied in his resurrection on Easter Day, the end of Lent.
One may liken it to a kind of Buddhist self-emptying. But, like much of the Christian life, it reaches beyond self-death into a sort of resurrection: who am I on the other side of this attachment? Or more importantly, what is God offering me on the other side? Who is God showing himself to be, that I just couldn’t see before?
It’s a time of learning about ourselves too: what makes us tick, or rather, what we have relied on to make us tick. Presumably, we run on the Holy Spirit. In reality, most of us run on a dose of the Holy Spirit and a great many doses of Fair Trade Coffee. One year, I decided to reverse that. It was 2011, my first baby was about eight months old, and I gave up coffee. Yes, I felt like I was dying. Some days. But hey, it made me pray a lot more. It made me – sometimes – send up a word of Help! to Jesus instead of reaching for that fourth cup of Liquid Attitude Adjustment. And you know what? It made me appreciate coffee a whole lot more. In the end: win all around.
Which brings me to: we get to break the fast on Sundays in Lent, too. Think of it like a mini-Easter: a small taste of the bliss that is to come. Less a time to gorge on your forbidden fruit, and more a time to relish the sweet, sweet victory of Jesus’s resurrection and the possibility of renewal that that brings. If heaven sounds far-fetched, try abstaining from coffee for six days and then drinking it on Sunday. Like a party in your mouth, yes. But also? Like a wake-up call about the things (also known as Idols) in our lives we’ve let enslave us, and how free we can be when we give ourselves fully to Jesus. Basically: when we let Coffee be Coffee and God be God. Boom.
Because it’s how you spell TIMESUCK in my heart language.
Because it’s what I do when I’m bored/feeling blah/craving interaction/pissed/stressed.
Because I’d rather be reading/writing/doing yoga/talking with my spouse/playing with my children/calling a friend/organizing my sock drawer than scrolling through my feed for the 671,998th time that day.
Because we forget sometimes that the number of “likes” we get doesn’t substitute for a friend’s in-the-flesh smile or a good belly laugh with the girls.
Because maybe I’ve given it too much space in my life, and I want to come back to appreciate it for what it is – and no more than that.
So here we go: 40 Days of Facebook Fasting to be chronicled here. By the way, you will still see me posting blog updates on Facebook, but that’ll be through my synced Twitter, which is not nearly as much of an issue for me. Yet.