With surprising (and embarrassing) clarity, I could see hours wasted and opportunities missed. They stacked in messy piles around the corners of my mind, cluttered like the scene of forgotten landfills. Scavenger birds drew near and the sun set while an evangelist in a worn broad-striped suit proclaimed this was right. But I knew better than to buy his travelling sales pitch. I knew all had been discarded on the pretense of availability. Availability, as if that were a spiritual gift needing to be nurtured.
I didn’t like the sight and determined to make a change.
While social media is a major part of my work – marketing, networking, and communication – I spend way more time there than is necessary. It’s easily rationalized, yet scarcely justified. The waste could be downright shameful when viewed in its entirety. I recognized the need for a change, and Lent presented the perfect solution: a fast.
We are now halfway through Lent, so you may guess this is either (1) a post proclaiming intention and success or (2) one confessing abject failure.
It’s neither really. I quit before I started. Instead of fasting from social media, I fasted from God. Accidentally, of course, but that is what happened.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I didn’t have my head right. Oh, I prayed about the fast and felt confident I should do it. I even went through the trouble of “setting myself for success” by altering the notification settings on my phone and iPad. I selected a Bible reading plan to correspond with my goals and prepared to blog about it. For accountability, of course. Then I read this post by Jon Acuff and threw the whole thing out the window.
It’s a funny post and a good one, but, as humor often does, it revealed some ugly truths. Ones I didn’t want to face about my own heart and motivation.
Lent is a beautiful tradition with the purpose of eliminating distractions in order to increase devotion to God. We give up something or take on something for a period of time so that we might know God better.
Somewhere along the course of religion, we’ve warped this into a prideful practice self-discipline. It’s not about God as much as it is about us. Instead of exalting and celebrating God, we elevate ourselves, praising our denial and productive righteousness. Lent has become a very public fast, something Jesus distinctly denounced.
Oh, but we publicize for the sake of accountability! And encouragement! After all, if I show people how I can do it, then they’ll recognize the benefits and do it, too. I’m a leader and people can’t follow those they can’t see – right?
Recently I read this on a friend’s facebook page:
“People often use the Bible as a drunken man uses a lamp post, for support rather than illumination.”
Yup. That’s what I was doing with my fast. I wasn’t really interested in drawing closer to God; I was quite content with where we stood. Yes, I know the “right” answer is that we should never be content with where we stand with God, that we should always strive for greater intimacy and passion and obedience, but … well, let’s dance in honesty here. What I really wanted was greater productivity within my day. I wanted to eliminated waste and increase impact for myself. I didn’t want to take the time I spend online and fill it with prayer or Bible study; I wanted God to bless my discipline. I would do the work and He would slather the holy frosty on top. I mean, why wouldn’t He? God loves discipline, right?
Oh, but that blog post and some double-edged slicing by the Holy Spirit revealed my error. God doesn’t care about discipline without humility. In fact, He rather despises it. I lacked humility. I lacked a lot more than that, but we’ll stop the list there. It’s enough.
With fresh insight the vision changed. Those piles, that landfill — I now saw them comprised of my self-righteous efforts. All my work and plans and spreadsheets (You all know how I love a good spreadsheet.) stacked high amid the debris. They were the debris.
So what did I do?
Nothing. I did absolutely nothing.
When I realized that, not only was my time management a dump, my attempts to fix it were self-righteous and pretty rank as well, I gave up. I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t bother making one. Lent began and progressed without me. I quit praying. (I’ve never been good at it anyway.) I didn’t bother to read my Bible. (I tossed that reading plan aside with the unwritten blog post about my holy intentions of sacrifice.) I just went on living my life, diving into my house and my work, and pretending it didn’t matter.
But it does matter.
TALK TO ME: Have you ever fasted from God? What happened?
This is just Part 1 of the story. Click HERE to read Part 2.