Reflections On Lent: First Sunday

Today is Sunday, the first Sunday of the Lent season.  Only during the last year did I learn the rules of the game; that one is free on Sundays to engage in whatever activity it is that one is giving up for Lent, although I haven’t yet learned exactly why it is so.  I heard the explanation once but it failed to stick in my mind, and now I am reduced to writing about something that I know little about.  Still, it has been reliably reported that on Sundays one can eat chicken tenders or watch television or do whatever it is that one has chosen to eschew for forty days in order to better focus on things of God.

My fast, of course, concerns Facebook, and by eleven thirty last night when I went to bed I had twenty one comments or ‘likes’ or mentions waiting for me to check out.  Rather than wait a half hour and get right to it I preferred to go to bed, but at five this morning my internal clock went off and I was soon up and seated in front of the desktop, plowing into my Facebook communications like a hungry undergraduate plowing into last evening’s leftover pizza.  It really was good to catch up, and I have checked the ‘Book several times today and even posted an entry or two.

So why do I feel a little bit empty?  It is perfectly within the rules to break my fast on Sundays and I really do enjoy communicating with my friends, so everything should be fine, no?  But somehow it just seems to be wrong.  Something’s missing here.  I have found it hard to bring myself to focus on God and the things of God today in the same way that I have for the four days which preceded, and I don’t like that.

The problem, I think, is not with Facebook.  Facebook is neither good nor bad; it is just Facebook.  The problem lies more with me.  I began my fast by choosing to grip my time with God as firmly as I could, trying to wring out of it as much connection to the Creator as I could by my own feeble efforts and with the help of the Holy Spirit.  It seems like the act of grappling with my woefully unfocused attention was actually helped by the giving up of something, and it could have been anything at all.  Whenever I would use my phone to check the time, read my emails, check the score of the Aztec’s game (they beat San Jose State) or, of all things, make a phone call, I would see the number of communications awaiting my attention on Facebook growing, which in turn would remind me of my quest for increased intimacy with God.

Then at five this morning I plowed into those communications and in the process lost my grip on my focus upon God.  It’s crazy how that came about but it is as true as it can possibly be.  It was like “There.  That’s over.  Let’s get back to normal activities”.  Well, I don’t want to get back to normal activities!  I liked connecting with God in new even if utterly imperfect ways every day just fine, thank you.  I have enjoyed this day so far; sleeping in (I went back to bed after checking things out at five AM), cooking breakfast and yakking with my wife and later on with my brother on the phone.  Soon we will cook some lunch, go for a walk, and then meet with our church body in a building owned by another church a couple of blocks down the street from the movie theater where we usually meet.  When you rent space from a theater you sometimes have to play second fiddle to “Happy Feet” or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  Tonight we got bumped by an Oscar party.  No worries.  Church is not about a building, and this night will be bittersweet as we say goodbye to a beloved associate pastor who has answered a call to begin a work at another church in a nearby city.  He and his family will be missed.  But still the day felt different.  Something was missing.  The intentionality of my focus on focusing on God was not there and I didn’t like that.

So I am going to modify the Sunday breaking of the Lenten fast just a little.  For the next several Sundays I will look at Facebook once in the morning and once again in the afternoon or evening.  The rest of the time I will continue to the best of my ability to maintain the focus on heightening my awareness of the nearness of God and sharpening my senses to receive what communications He might be trying to send my way.  Perhaps this might become a pattern to continue, one way or another, for the rest of the year.  We’ll see.

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