Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving. The 3 tenets of Lent. As I prepare for Lent I think of those things and worry over and pray about what it is that I will give up/do for Lent — and I do this for an annoying long time.
I make a list of potential “This Lent I will give up [X]” candidates. I mull each of them over. And as Lent arrives I am forced to decide.
Out of all the things I could possibly give up/do I have discovered that I am called to do the one where my gut reaction is “I could never give that up!” since it is precisely the thing that I must give up.
That makes Lent hard. Good. I like hard. But this isn’t a matter of willpower and showing myself I can have the will to be awesome and avoid this thing –No! This is about righting my relationship with God. Is it something keeping me from a deep relationship with Him? Then out of my love for God I will give it up. And it’s by His grace alone that I will succeed.
I also have this thing where I want to do things perfectly. But if there’s this big thing that is hard to give up it’s very likely that I will fail. And if I fail once I will get disappointed in myself, but I’ll try again. If I fail twice I will get disappointed in myself, but I will try again. So on and so on trying, failing, trying, failing… worried that each fail is a sign I’m a terrible person who just doesn’t love God enough. [PS. I know God loves me. I know I love God. I want to LOVE God. If I fail and choose myself over God He still loves me, but it’s definitely a sign that I could love God MORE.]
Do you like to fail? I don’t.
So this year I stumbled upon a very novel idea — What if I “step into Lent”? I have my Goal. I see my Goal. But instead of Lent Day 1 going from 100% to 0% instead I’ll carve out specific steps to get to that Goal – steadily changing my ways, reducing down from 100%, aiming for that 0% — but in a way where I gain small victories which leads to greater confidence that I can actually achieve my goal rather than repeatedly failing at it.
I have 40 days to get to my Goal. “Each day is an opportunity…” blah blah blah.
I don’t need inspirational speeches.
I need concrete steps.
I need a way to feel like I’m making steps in the right direction.
Which is why this year I’m STEPPING INTO LENT.
I haven’t figure it all out yet –– and I guess I have a little bit of time to figure it out — but I figured out Step 1. Step 1 is a great and challenging step. But it comes with a very important thing: A sense of “I can do this!” And I need to think that I CAN do this because otherwise I might think I can’t do this — aka cue ‘the cycle of defeat’.
I am hopeful that this approach will work for me. I am hopeful I get to Easter and I will have successfully “Given up X” for Lent. But not only that — I want to free myself FOREVER of this wrong relationship – I want to keep the relationship righted!
We each will have our “thing”. But here is one of my things I am stepping into Lent over: Using Social Media.
I have been posting on Instagram and Facebook, and even my own blog posts — and every time I post something I incessantly check to see likes/comments, etc. Those little dopamine rushes are messing with me – give me more! give me more!
On an objective level I see this and go “Well just don’t do that. Post but don’t check. Post but don’t care. Perhaps don’t post?” But on a subjective level my brain makes my fingers go “Open app. Scroll. Swipe. Tap.” >> AKA I am addicted. Objectively addictions are out of my control. Subjectively “I must defeat myself!” and I will will myself to win. Objectively I know an addiction doesn’t work that way. >>> Hence the idea STEP slowly into that good night…
LENTEN THING: Give up Social Media use.
GOAL: After Lent spend limited time engaging with Social Media – keeping aware of usage, feelings, and “Is this getting in the way of me living fully for God?”.
PRE-LENT: You’d think that having moved the Instagram app to a 3rd screen within a subfolder which was not on the home screen of my phone would have helped reduce my usage. Nope! I quickly got very good at swiping screens the requisite number of times to reach the app. I don’t use the Facebook app – so usage there is all browser-based; not ideal since my phone prompts shortcuts to “most visited”.
Suggestion: Remove or hide apps/shortcuts, etc — get the temptation away from your in-your-face!
STEP 1: (1) Limit self to opening Instagram/Facebook twice per day. No more than 10 minutes per day. (2) Limit self from posting things on Instagram and Facebook. Before posting think “Should I?”. Allow self to answer “Yes” –that is, don’t get discouraged if the answer isn’t always: “No, I don’t need to.”
— Timeline: Week 1 – Ash Wednesday thru Friday of the 1st week of Lent (10 days).
STEP 2: Limit self to opening each app only once per day. No more than 10 mins. Challenge self to use it as briefly as possible. Post if necessary, but first really challenge self to consider “Do I need to post this?”
— Timeline: Week 2 – ending Friday of 2nd week of Lent.
STEP 3: Limit self to opening only one app per day. Limit use to less than 10 mins. Post only if deemed necessary after asking self: “Does this post/comment build up God’s kingdom?”
— Timeline: Week 3 – ending Friday of 3rd week of Lent.
STEP 4: Only open one app and only every other day. Use for as briefly as possible (not exceeding 10 mins). Challenge self to wait longer than every other day.
— Timeline: Week 4 – ending Friday of 4th week of Lent.
STEP 5: Only open each app once per week max. Challenge self to not open apps at all.
— Timeline: Week 5 – ending Friday of 5th week of Lent.
STEP 6: Do not open any social media app. At all. Period. Full stop.
— Timeline: Palm Sunday thru Easter Sunday.
I am hopeful that by outlining these steps and stepping my way away from social media I will be ready for a beautiful Easter this year — fully focused on the joy of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! As well as being filled with a sense of “Jesus, I gave this small sacrifice for you. Thank you for giving all of us your sacrifice.”
And come Easter Sunday, maybe I’ll post something to Facebook about the beauty of the day. But if I do I’ll know I do so contemplating what I’m doing, why I’m doing it –and I won’t wait around checking for any “likes” because as long as I remember that God likes what I’m doing that’s good enough for me. [or you know, some other cheesy inspirational ending to wrap this thing up.]
PS. I guess I should note that this one is my “easy” one to give up… I’m also working on something much harder – regarding materialism+wasting time. And so far Step 1 is going well – it’s hard; oh it’s hard. But I feel so grateful I’m allowing myself to take baby steps. I know that even if all I accomplish is Step 1 I’ll still have made significant progress on my journey closer to God.