Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Gave Up My Cell Phone for Lent (and it lasted one day)…sort of!

Yesterday I forgot my cell phone.  For a whole 13 hours, I was not a slave to phone calls, text messages, email notifications, social media, games, or downloaded books.  Nothing was calling my name, or demanding my attention.  Consequently, I was fully present in each and every moment.  True confession: it was quite liberating.  I missed nothing but the ability to tell time (and that was easily fixable).

It was the perfect day to be without a cell phone.  It was the first day of Lent, otherwise known as Ash Wednesday.  When I was a kid, we always began the day by going to Lenten services at church.  We were always challenged toward celebrating the season with self-denial, whose purpose it was to examine those things that reigned over our heart more than the Lord.  As we became more aware of our heart-issues, we would be in a better state of celebration when we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus, and the price he paid for our sinfulness.  Ash Wednesday was the start of forty days without candy (seriously, what else could an eight year old give up, especially back then?), and it was the day I went to school with a cross on my forehead sketched by my Episcopalian priest through the medium of, obviously, ashes (duh!).  The odd thing is that nobody thought that was odd.  The kids in my class were like (imagine a shrug of the shoulders), "Oh…it must be Lent again."  Nobody mocked.  No one called in the ACLU, or a Religious Rights Activist, because we were infringing on their freedom to be of another faith.  Imagine that!  It was just…accepted….

So, I used being without my cell phone yesterday, as a test.  Maybe I'd give up social media for the next forty days?  Maybe I'd give up chocolate….again?  Maybe I'd give up coffee (that was a short-lived thought)?  Oh, yes, and there were those little Lenten boxes, where we gave up some of our allowance to take back to church.  Maybe I could give some of my….oh, yes, I don't get an allowance anymore.  Being without my cell phone was a reminder to reflect on the very thing I would deny myself of and, thereby, examine my heart.  The plan backfired.  I rather liked it.  The end result of the day without my cell phone was that I missed nothing I couldn't rectify in approximately five minutes at the end of the day, when I returned home.  It seemed social media didn't miss me either.

As I lay awake thinking through the Lenten giving-up-concept, it dawned on me that maybe it wasn't so much about giving up, as it was simply the whole purpose of examination.  So, I fell asleep determining that instead of making this a season of self-denial, I would propagate a period of time devoted to proactively positioning myself for promoting the long lost spiritual prayer (wow, that's a lot of "p" words) of "examen."  Re-read that, and don't get lost in the woods of the "p" words.  Basically, I'm convicted of being proactive about engaging in the prayer of "examen."  What might that be?  Historically (thank you, St. Ignatius), the prayer of examen is a time of reflection at the end of the day, whereby we look back with gratitude on the day, filter through the events (including the emotions, the responses to the events, and our behaviors), pray through at least one event & its outcomes, then fall asleep looking forward to and surrendering our tomorrow to the Lord.  It's a simple process, but one in which we are able to take an honest look at our spiritual responses of the day and make a critical (in a positive way) study of them.  It's nothing more than an "examination of me."  However, it adds an important element of gratitude.

So, I'm giving up giving up for Lent.  I'm giving up self-denial.  Instead, I'm adding something.  I'm adding a new spiritual exercise.  An exercise that is foreign to me.  I'm offering the Lord, at the end of every day over the next forty days, my own attempt at personal introspection of each day, with gratitude, and a look forward to tomorrow.

Wow!  Maybe I should leave my cell phone home more often…

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