I’ve never observed Lent before this year. I’m not really sure why I decided to pay attention this year except for maybe an increased awareness of church traditions due to some of my family’s conversion to Catholicism. I read after I’d begun that observing Lent is now a trendy Evangelical thing to do. I have to be at the forefront of the latest trends—especially fashion trends. In fact, I bought a new flannel shirt that didn’t have stains or tears just last summer in the Bargain Cave at Cabelas. I even bought a pair of mostly-new $5 jeans at a thrift store just this December.
In retrospect, I believe that some of my motivation goes back more than a year to a conversation I had in Nepal with missionary colleague, Ty. We were talking about time and our differing attitudes toward it. Ty is one of those productive people that makes things happen. He is a technology junkie that pumps creative content and ambitious cooperative plans through almost every variety of Apple product ever produced: iFuji, iGolden-Delicious, iGranny-Smith, iApplesauce, etc.
I don’t even want a smart phone. I told Ty during this conversation that I didn’t think my time justified the price of a smart phone. I told him at one point that my time wasn’t worth much. Ty’s jaw hit the floor, unable to comprehend this concept. He is the type of guy who has enough ideas and plans to fill entire yearly calendars and keep people around him rushing to keep up. He loves the way technology keeps him connected and streamlines his productivity. To this day he has not missed a chance to jab me at opportune times and remind me I said this—among other stupider things I’ve said.
Me, I use internet technology also. I get distracted watching stupid videos on YouTube. I read some blogs, check the weather, scroll for deals on Craigslist. And on a regular basis I catch myself scanning through Facebook for much longer than I like to admit.
While I don’t foresee myself buying the latest iHoney-Crisp, I tried to use Lent as an opportunity to tweak the use of my time. I gave up Facebook for Lent. I wanted to focus more on spiritual things and pay attention to the historic events that led up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. I traded Facebook for the Bible.
I found a 40 day reading plan for the whole Bible. It wasn’t my personal idea. I found it on a blog I ran into by Margaret Feinberg. Link: http://margaretfeinberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/UPDATED-LentReadingGuide2013smallpdf.com_.pdf. She encouraged participants to share what God was revealing to them “on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag: #LIVEWONDERSTRUCK.” I didn’t do this because I had voluntarily banned myself from Facebook. You will be happy to know I did not tweet once. Ever. Never have, so why start now? I had to ask my daughter Natalia what Instagram is. I bet my friend Ty already knew about it.
Instead I read the Bible. For about an hour or more each day. I decided to use The Message version to make familiar passages fresh and different. If I got behind I’d try and use the plan’s Sunday breaks to catch up. I read through the Old Testament start to finish. I read each of the Gospels and the book of Acts in a day each. I used one road trip to Denver to listen to an NIV audio version of several of the Pauline Epistles. I finished 1, 2, & 3 John, Jude and Revelation on Easter Sunday after the sunrise service.
It was epic.
I decided it was unlikely that I had been spending an equal amount of time on Facebook each day. I had to work hard to keep up with the reading plan. It reminded me of my college days when I’d read hundreds of pages each week for my literature classes. It was a forced march and did not allow rabbit trails to investigate passages or topics that caught my attention. A great overview and it was totally worth it. I’d consider it again next year because it certainly infused my brain with scripture. I pray that lots of what I read will reach my heart
I’d like to say I’m so spiritual that I’d just keep it up and drop Facebook altogether. But if I’m honest, I’m looking forward to getting back on Facebook. There are a lot of people that I connect with only on Facebook. I missed them. I missed the news from their lives and the thought provoking wit and links they share. I missed the prayer requests, the news about surgeries, struggles and little victories. I connect with a lot of my foreign friends primarily via Facebook also. I missed the jokes. Basically, I missed the SOCIAL part of social media. I missed the little hint of relationship the internet allows across the miles. I felt a bit more separation from those “frequent posters” on my friend list. I missed the people.
I didn’t miss links to cat videos. I didn’t miss the mass messaging, the friend requests from people I don’t even know and the invites to gambling games and virtual farming. I didn’t miss the political rants and the risqué, insidious attention grabbers that pop up. I didn’t miss seeing the latest stuff I was searching for suddenly show up on the ads thanks to some high-tech spyware.
While the sun has just recently set on Easter Sunday, I find myself in wonder at the incarnation of our Lord, throwing himself right into the middle of sweaty, smelly humanity. What would Jesus post on Facebook? Sure I think he’d be on Facebook! He didn’t hesitate to eat with tax collectors and prostitutes, I doubt a few cat videos would be a put-off. After about 40 days disconnected, I can see Facebook as an honest representation of the cross-section of humanity. The same humanity that God loved enough to send his only son for.
I think restoring God’s connection to humanity was a major motivation for the incarnation. Sin and death had created a chasm way bigger than my voluntary hiatus from my Facebook friends. Jesus came and took care of that, creating a way to connect with his friends and followers much more effective and holistic than Facebook.
Along the way can’t you see Jesus grabbing his smart phone to post something that cut through all the superfluities that fill typical status reports. He’d tweet right to the heart of things as he always did. The profound way he dealt with skeptics and doubters and hypocrites would shine in pithy status reports and the ironic links he’d share. His hashtags would be trending all the way through to the triumphal entry. Every post and picture would point the way to the Father just like he used the things around him to give testimony to the Plan. I can see the disciples posting a few selfies of them and Jesus hanging out. And then Peter would go back and delete all three of them before the rooster crowed in the morning. I’m sure we’d be surprised at who made Jesus’ friend list. I sure hope I’d be a follower.
May the wonder of Easter carry right into the rest of your year. #LIVEWONDERSTRUCK and all that.