February is a hard month for me. It marks the anniversary of the death of my first son. For whatever reason, that heartbreak returns profoundly each February, as though my body remembers. I spent most of February escaping my mind through social media. To be honest, the more I think about what I was trying to escape, the more I start to think that it wasn’t so much my pain as it was God. It was God that I didn’t want to hear; or more profoundly, it was God that I was afraid I couldn’t hear, and so avoided giving Him any opportunity to speak. After some time, I realized I was avoiding the Lord on purpose. I knew He had some things to say to me, and I did not want to hear them. Then, on February 26th, Ash Wednesday arrived, the first day of Lent.
Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter Weekend. Though optional, it is a time traditionally used for fasting and penitence before the Lord. I felt, as this day drew closer, that I had the choice to avoid God as easily as I had been, or to remove the one thing I had put in the way of my time with Him and the one thing keeping me from true relationship. I knew that social media kept me from the Word, and as a result, I was struggling to decide where I stood. I also felt, for whatever reason, a certain urgency to figure it out. I knew that I couldn’t remain on the fence anymore, I had to make a choice. I also knew that if I were to take God seriously, social media had to go. So on February 26th, I began my social media fast.
We are a little over two and a half weeks into the Lent season and I believe that this fast is the most significant fast I have ever taken in my life. Though I had used social media to escape time with the Lord, what I hadn’t realized was that in that escape I was also missing life with my healthy, beautiful son. I was also missing out on life with my husband. I was missing out on true connection with friends and with family. I began to realize that not only had I sacrificed my relationship with the Lord through this distraction, I had sacrificed my reality. I had forgotten how to listen. I had forgotten how to be intentional. I had sacrificed everything that actually matters in my life, without even realizing it.
Since beginning this fast, I am more present and less lonely, and I have learned things about my son I never noticed before. Though I believe that social media has many good reasons to exist, I think that the bad far outweighs the good for me. The question I’ve been hearing over and over since beginning this fast, is “what’s the cost?”.
I have been putting my time in things that do not matter. I have put so much time into reading posts, articles and comments that have made me insecure, lonely, and caused me to constantly compare myself and my life to others. I have developed a fear of missing out, while simultaneously missing out on all that matters. There was once a study done that proved that a baby will fail to thrive without human affection. If that’s true for babies, I think it’s safe to assume it’s true for all of us. Social media gives the illusion of affection, but it isn’t real. What we need to thrive is true, real life, in person affection. I was on track to failing to thrive as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, as a daughter, but God created me for more than that. He created me for true connection, with Him, and with people, and Lent has helped me find that again.
Lent gave me an opportunity to recognize and remove something that has stood in my way of life and life abundantly. I have learned, in these two and a half weeks, that there was nothing I had to “make right” with the Lord, I just had to be able to see Him. He has been so steady and so present, yet I have ignored him through distraction. He has been drawing me into life, while I have been captivated by something manufactured. Lent helped me realize that He has been calling me out to family, community and intimacy, when I have been looking in the wrong places for it.
Though we are already a ways into the Lent season, I do not think it is too late to pick something in your life that serves as a distraction or separation between yourself and the Lord and to dedicate that space it filled with time with Him. I think that fasting unto the Lord can do nothing but both grow and encourage your faith. If you’re not sure where you stand, make a sacrifice and fill that time with figuring it out. He is faithful in ways we don’t understand. Search Him, search His word, be un-distracted. Everything we believe rides on the events of Good Friday and Easter. What better time than this to go deeper than you ever have before.
Note: Though social media was the item of my Lent Fast, I have decided to *try* to stay off of it long-term If fasting from it can help me think more clearly, love more deeply, and know God more intimately, it is not worth ever taking back. Forever is not a very long time to give something up, when you weigh what you have to gain without it.