(warning: I get a little preachy in this one)
There have been many times when I’ve declared that I am giving up “something” for Lent, but the seriousness of that commitment was measured in how long my fingers were able to stay out of the chocolate chips.
Typically, for a long spell in my adulthood this was a measure of the depth of the “I believes” that spilled from my lips during church services. From baptism through adulthood I’ve identified as a Christian, a Lutheran to be specific. The Lutheran liturgy is so indelibly printed in my mind that I suspect that in my dotage when I’ve lost oh so many other words, the Apostles’ Creed will be one of the easily retrievable files in my memory.
But this year, the forty days of Lent seemed to be calling on me to look closely at what matters most in my life, and the amount of time and energy that I squander on distraction.
When I first signed on to Facebook, it was with the notion that this might be a place to promote my writing, keep up with news from friends and family, and re-connect with people from “back when …” It has been a good way to re-connect, to keep abreast of what’s happening in the writing community, encounter some new people. But scrolling through endless newsfeed sometimes three, four, more? times a day has come too close to resembling an evening spent in front of the television, too lazy to change channels or fast-forward through commercials. I never was a TV junkie. How then, did I become hooked on the overwhelming flow of information about the lives of not only people I know, but those I’ve become connected with through “mutual friends?”
Yes, I do love seeing the photos of the adorable children of my friends, and those of my talented photographer friend, Margaret, who captures gorgeous images I would not otherwise see, and there are jokes, cartoons, wise sayings that amuse or touch me. There are political rants, some of which I am in agreement with, others that make me sit on my hands so that I won’t break the rules my parents taught me about never getting into arguments about politics, religion, or how much money anyone earns or how much they spend.
I want to be clear, though, that I appreciate the enjoyment other people derive from their own postings and those of others, and it’s not for me to decide whether the minutiae of life belongs on Facebook, or look down my rather long nose at anyone who loves social media. As with any human discourse, it’s all about respect. Being non-judgmental has always been hard for me, but I’m getting better. I hope.
So what have I been doing during this season of Lent? For the first time in my life, I have attended every Thursday evening Lenten prayer service, attended every Sunday worship, looked long and hard at whether I can “produce fruit out of season”, finally understood what the withered fig tree in Mark 11 means in contemporary life, pondered why people need holy places, and given a lot of thought to what the world’s religions share rather dwelling on the differences.
As for the time I would have spent on Facebook? I’ve made a point of talking with friends over coffee or lunch rather than checking to see what they’ve posted on Facebook or waiting for email. And probably most significantly, I’ve been reading voraciously. Even more voraciously than usual; at least five books a week, re-reading some of them as well, learning from all of them. From the short-listed GG and Giller lists, from twice weekly plundering of the new and notable displays at Fish Creek Library, from recommendations by friends. From beautiful fiction like Connie Gault’s A Beauty, Claire Holden Rothman’s My October, to Raziel Reed’s controversial, brilliant, funny, heartbreaking YA novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, to Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity. The photo is a mere sampling. Forty days? At least twenty-five books, I think.
Only four days left in this Holy Week. Am I counting them, eager to get back in the loopy loop of FB? No. What’s been good has been counting each of the days of Lent as part of the journey. And of hearing over and over again that paying attention to God means the practice of compassion and justice. To quote Marcus Borg: “Within the church compassion is to be the primary virtue in our relationships with each other…. among other things, compassion means inclusiveness and inclusive caring. Justice is the social or systematic form of compassion.” — from The Heart of Christianity
What a pity that the “Christians” who make the news regularly haven’t read Borg, nor do they seem to remember that Jesus was a fearless activist who crossed every social and political boundary he encountered.
So if I do re-appear on Facebook, apart from blog posts like this one that automatically show up there and on Twitter, and if I forget what Ma and Pa told me about not arguing about religion, maybe you’ll forgive me if I forget to sit on my hands when I encounter Christian bashing. I’m fresh from some dedicated contemplative thinking and prayer. I’ll simply be trying to make the point, as compassionately as possible, that there are fanatics in every religion, and a whole lot more of us who are working hard to walk in the way of compassion and justice, and most important of all — love.
Besides, I have photos of spring flowers to post. Would I deprive anyone of those?