in the past, i’ve never practiced the act of sacrificing something for lent. while so many people around me would give up something, i just ignored it and went on with my life. this year, i couldn’t ignore it. it was like a blaring alarm going off in my head for two months, and i knew God was urging me to take part in the lenting season.
ever since i moved back from new york, i’ve been church hopping and never stayed at a church for longer than a few months. three years later, by the grace of God, i finally found a place that i felt strongly about staying at and the conversation about lent started pretty early on. i remember pastor brian at ekko church saying we should be preparing for the lenting season. to be honest, i never heard someone say we should prepare for lent and thought most people just decided on something the night before, but i realized how important it was to get my heart and mind in the right place. i was also able to discern more clearly what God wanted from me during the forty days and on.
i started to pray about what i should give up and would think about certain foods, shopping, tv shows, etc. etc., but i kept feeling a tug on my heart that i was supposed to give up snapchat, instagram and alcohol, all the things i really didn’t want to give up. i kept ignoring this and continued to think about other things, but the fact that those were the things i didn’t want to give up made it clear those were the things i absolutely should give up. i was seesawing between committing to just one of those things or all of those things, but a few days before ash wednesday, a friend said, if you’re going to sacrifice something, sacrifice everything or don’t do anything at all. this really convicted me and made me think about how self-absorbed i was being even when the whole point of this was to lay myself and my comfort down for God. how am i to take up the cross and follow God if i feel like i can’t give up something as insignificant as instagram? come on, debs.
so anyway, i began fasting those three things. i made my roommate change the password to my instagram, deleted the apps and refrained from drinking alcohol. from saturday sundown through sunday, you are able to rest from whatever you gave up for lent in keeping the sabbath, and sometimes i did with alcohol, but when it came to instagram and snapchat i felt it was better to just go all the way through. there was no point in putting in effort to re-install the apps for 24 hours.
during this time, i came to a lot of realizations and experienced certain aspects of my life shifting and changing. i’ve previously given up alcohol for a period of time, so this didn’t seem to make much of an impact, but detaching myself from instagram and snapchat really put things into perspective for me. honestly, it was not as difficult as i thought it would be. i thought it was going to be super hard, that i’d get really antsy, and have major fomo, but from day 1, it was kind of an out of sight out of mind thing. also, i realized i just did not care that much about what the population on social media was doing. if i wanted to check in on someone or wanted to see what they were up to, i’d text them or call them, which should always be the case. if i cared, i wouldn’t simply check a person’s story or feed and feel like that was enough to know what was going on in their life. it became very apparent to me that i was really sucked into these social media platforms in an unhealthy/toxic way and was way too enticed by people who were able to achieve fame and fortune by their social following and perfectly curated feeds. at first, instagram was a fun thing for me to channel my creativity. i’m naturally not an artistic person, so building my feed and taking cool photos was the extent of what i could do, but then it became a habit and something that consumed so much of my time.
when i removed myself from using instagram and snapchat, i was also so much more aware of how i must’ve appeared to others when i would scroll through my social media in their presence. i’d be sitting there watching people pay more attention to their phones than the people around them. sometimes i’d feel so awkward i wouldn’t know know what to do with myself, so i’d switch my lock button on and off even when i had nothing to look at. the lack of engagement is so prevalent now and when it’s right in front of me, i realize how sad that truly is. sometimes you end up repeating yourself multiple times because those who appeared to be listening weren’t fully paying attention to what you were saying to begin with. this doesn’t make a person feel good on any level. i’m not saying social media is bad; it has opened up so many opportunities, created jobs for people, allowed people to network, keeps friends in the loop and the list goes on, but i also think it’s often abused and that people are becoming more and more numb to the beauty of being present. this is something i do not want to forget. i want to cherish the time i get to spend with people and i want to them to feel like the time they’re giving me is valued and appreciated. so if i’m hanging out with you and constantly on my phone, please call me out on it because that’s a habit i don’t want to fall back into.
as i mentioned above, giving up instagram and snapchat was not as difficult as i thought it would be, but what i found more challenging was what i did in it’s place. i had to keep reminding myself that lent is not just about sacrificing something. anyone with even the slightest bit of discipline can do that. it’s more about taking the time you would’ve spent in doing what you gave up, and giving it to the Lord. spending more time in his word and in prayer, being fully reliant on him, leaning into him in your weakness and lack of comfort.
the more i spent time with God, the more i’d trust him. and the more i’d trust him, the more i felt at peace. and that peace is something that i cling to because now i really believe it can not be found in things of this world. i have always struggled with extreme anxiety, which has really crippled areas of my life in the past, but i started to feel it decrease in the past month. i found that when i let go of the tight hold i have on trying to control every aspect of my life and say “God, i’ll praise you regardless of the outcome,” i’m oddly at peace even if things don’t turn out the way i had hoped. it’s not always going to be this way because i am very weak and very flawed. i know i’ll have moments i’m completely disobedient and bitter, but following God isn’t supposed to be easy, and walking this journey with him is a decision i made. i didn’t think much would change in forty days, but i’ve really felt God move in me during this period of time and feel like i’m coming out from fasting better than i went into it, and for that, i’m very grateful.