My wife and I are good at planning gardens. Mark off the space, till the ground, plant. It’s the tending part that gets in the way. In Georgia, from late June through September we have to remember to water and weed. These things are not planning but follow-through issues. And we start again. Much like the return of Lent to remind Christians that resurrection only comes after the difficult road to and through Jerusalem and the crucifixion.
My friend, Art Remillard, has taken a break from social media—Facebook and Twitter—for the past three years. He begins his fourth year today. I joined him two years ago. We usually post more to our blogs during the Lenten season, which suggests we are good at abiding the Lenten fast but then become consumed by the rest of our days until we move around the sun back to this season of transition between winter and spring.
But much as changed for me in the past year. I set a goal to run 1,000 miles in 2018 and completed the goal by eight miles. If we use the liturgical calendar, I prepared for and completed my first half-marathon last Saturday (Snickers half-marathon, Albany, GA). But I have also established a pattern of mindfulness training. I have taken to writing more frequently, even if those words don’t appear on this blog. More important to this return to Lent, I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone last fall and took to logging in and out only once per week. Unlike previous fasts, I have already become okay without the distractions in my life.
So if I don’t miss social media, can I really claim I’m on a fast? Yesterday, I tilled our garden again. After a mostly fallow year, we have broken the ground again. Like most years, we may get upended by drought conditions. Or the busyness of our lives. I broke the ground, however, earlier this year so that we can better prepare it and ourselves for the work of the land. Rather than rush the tilling to plant the seeds, forgetting about all the weeds that remain in the soil, I’ll spend from now until Good Friday working to get the soil ready for planting.
I think this is the point to the fast. Rather than focus on what I am losing, I am choosing to engage in productive work, much like how I feel when I teach or write. While I am better at not worrying about how people respond to my posts on social media, I notice I still get sucked into useless arguments or speed scroll over hundreds of posts for fear I missed something *important.* While I enjoy connecting with distant family and friends on social media, I can’t say any of it is important. It’s taken three years to see the point of the Lenten practice isn’t about what I give up but embracing what I need to see in my life and the lives of others. We will prepare the soil this year as Lent prepares us for Jerusalem, with a deliberate turn to the hard work ahead. Grateful friends helped me see the value of taking these rituals seriously. More grateful that I became aware of their value.