Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lent Unplugged

I can tell you the exact moment I realized I had left my laptop computer in Dallas: it was the moment I unloaded everything from the car back at home and realized it was missing! Folks who know me well know that I rarely go anywhere without all my “devices.” I don’t mind wearing clothes that are several seasons old, or driving a car I’ve had for almost a decade, as long as I have my computer, iPhone, and more recently, the use of an iPad as well. I stay connected through all those pieces of equipment, and always feel a little lost without them. So even though I never opened my Mac during my entire trip to Dallas, I had it nearby just in case, thank you very much!

In my hurry to load my car for the return trip home, however, I left my Mac and iPad in the computer case in the spare bedroom where I stayed at my son and daughter-in-law’s house. While that would not be earthshaking to most people, my stomach clenched when I realized Mac was 360 miles away. A phone call to Dallas confirmed it was, indeed, at the house, and they promised to ship it overnight to me right away.

I was off work for Spring Break, so there was nothing I really desperately needed to do on my computer, but I suddenly felt lost and confused.  From the time I left Dallas until the time my Mac was finally in my hands again was about 3 ½ days. During those days, I went through typical stages of withdrawal similar to someone who has stopped smoking, or given up caffeine. I had a headache. I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and everything I started to do reminded me of something I needed (wanted?) to do on my computer. I felt disoriented. I felt a desperate longing to sit at my computer once again. In short, I realized how much I was addicted to it!

You can laugh, and if you know me well you probably already have! It sounds comical, but I realized it wasn’t really a laughing matter, and I was actually thankful for the time to get in reality about how out of proportion my dependence on this gadget had become.

We are in the season of the year when many in the Christian community observe Lent. Although it varies from one body of believers to another, many view it as a time of consecrating themselves by “doing without” something they would normally enjoy, and instead offer more devotion to the Lord. Christians who “fast” from something they normally do—whether it’s giving up chocolate, alcohol, Facebook, Starbucks, or anything else—have the opportunity to get a balanced perspective on the things that have become important in their lives. If one has a very difficult time of withdrawal, as I did, that is a clue that the person, thing, or activity has become ‘way too important.

The Bible speaks in both Old and New Testaments about idols. We might call them addictions in the 21st Century. Things sometimes become too important to us, out of proportion to everything else in our world, and we find that we are actually worshipping those things, much as the ancient Israelites turned to idols for comfort and satisfaction instead of looking to their God.

Regardless of what we call them, the things we have become dependent on (to the point that we are uncomfortable doing without them) could point us to some self-examination. Moderation is key. Balance is healthy. As you examine your routine and your daily behaviors, what are some areas where you could fast for a period of time in order to regain perspective? Whether you do it as a part of the Lenten season or just simply to cleanse your mind and body and soul, it can be refreshing to exercise self-discipline over some area of your life you realize is out of control.

I did not plan to give up daily computer activity for Lent. But the Lord took the opportunity to point me to an area where I lacked discipline, and gave me a glimpse into enjoyable, meaningful things each day without being connected to the internet . . . I’m thankful for my Mac Fast!