Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Can You Give Up Your Calendar (Smart Phone?) for Lent?

The Lenten season is usually associated with self-discipline, and often times our actions have to do with eliminating our consumption of things that we love (but are not necessarily good for us in large quantities).  Should we cut out meat?  But how many people do you know who don't eat red meat anyway? And a colleague at a former place of employment talked about eating shrimp instead of red meat during Lent. Shrimp???

It's natural to think of food because fasting is an important tradition in the Judeo-Christian faith.

We tend to think of fasting as a sign of strength. What can I do to gain God's favor? Rather, fasting should be associated with weakness.  What day-to-day distractions do I have in my life that prevent me from getting closer to God?

I came across a marvelous piece by a Presbyterian minister (Kristine Haig) several years ago, and I am reprinting some excerpts below.  (And feel free to substitute smart phone for calendar)

What are you going to give up for Lent? I considered the obvious choices: chocolate, junk food, caffeine. But my spiritual counselor had a different idea. Why don't you give up your calendar? she suggested.
My calendar?! What, was she crazy??

The immediacy and visceral intensity of my reaction told me she had smoked out one of my true idols. The thought of going through the better part of a semester without my trusty sidekick calendar created a state of near panic. I needed my calendar in order to . . . In order to what? In order to get my assignments in on time? In order to be where people expected me to be, when they expected me? In order to be a responsible adult?

In truth I suspect that the need my calendar addressed was less noble. I am afraid it was my need to feel in control, my desire to feel competent, and to be seen as an organized and productive person.  In short, my need to be something other than a child of God, something more impressive, more powerful and less humble. My need, if you will, to not need God at all.

The season of Lent invites us to a deeper awareness of God's presence and call. It offers a time for naming and turning away from those patterns of life that come between us and God, those choices that distance us from the divine presence, those things that we put in the place of God in our lives.

Kristine A. Haig has served as director of the PC(USA)'s Office of Spiritual Formation

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