Yesterday was Ash Wednesday -- the day that many Christians get strange looks for walking around with smudges of dirt on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday also marks the beginning of the season of Lent. For most of my life I knew very little about Lent. Truthfully, I still don’t know much about it. Here’s what I do know:
Lent is a 40-day period of prayer and fasting. From Ash Wednesday until Easter many Christians choose to abstain from some form of earthly pleasure. Some forgo eating certain foods – maybe chocolate, meats or alcoholic beverages. Others may give up social media. This year I fall into the latter category. I have given up Facebook and Twitter for Lent. I tend to stay connected to the world through Twitter. Although I hardly ever tweet, I have found that I check my timeline regularly – maybe too regularly. I have found that it is the fastest, easiest way to check the news. And although I don’t find Facebook nearly as helpful, I find myself scrolling through endless memes and videos looking for something interesting. These time-wasters are the perfect things to give up for Lent.
I have only really just begun to observe Lent. Last year I gave up red meat for Lent and attempted to follow the Catholic practice of meatless Fridays. A couple years prior to that I did something similar to this year by giving up Facebook. (Coincidentally, that was my best semester of law school.)
Giving up something for Lent has little to do with the thing given up. Instead, it is about denial of self. Lent is a time to exercise some self-control. Every Friday last year I had to constantly remind myself that I was not eating meat. Several times yesterday I caught myself looking for the social media apps on my phone. Is there anything wrong with eating meat on Fridays or spending time on social media? Of course not. Denying oneself an item of comfort, convenience, or pleasure, however, is a good reminder that these things ought not become indispensible in our lives. As humans we tend toward idolatry. By observing Lent, a Christian can put away things that he is holding too dearly.
Instead of scrolling through my Twitter timeline for the next 40 days or so, I hope to spend more time in prayer. I hope to put things back in their proper perspective and be a little less connected to the world—and a little more connected to my Creator.