For the first thirty years of my life, all I knew about Lent was a vegetarian dish that my grandmother made called Lenten Patties. No one knew what a Lenten was, or if they did, no one ever said. Now that I have exited the church of my childhood, I realize why I didn’t know what a Lenten was. It had to do with the Catholic Church, held in low regard by my childhood denomination. They accused the Catholics of changing the Sabbath to Sunday and righteously touted the importance of keeping Sabbath on Saturday as opposed to on Sunday. Of course, to emphasize this, they included a clause warning that failure to keep Sabbath on Saturday would result in receiving the mark of the beast. Twisting the Bible to fit your theology seems just about as unethical as claiming to change Sabbath to Sunday. Beware of the rod in your own eye…
For the first seventeen years as a born again Christian, I didn’t hear much about the Catholics from the evangelicals I hung out with. Now over the last seven years, more and more Christians are celebrating Lent. Discussions ensue in the blogosphere about what people are giving up for Lent. Some give up coffee, some give up alcohol, some even go so far as to give up chocolate, a fate worse than death. I would like to give up exercise, but somehow it isn’t considered a sacrifice. Pity. Others don’t give up anything but use Lent as a time to build a new spiritual practice, become friendlier or practice generosity.
In the past, I haven’t taken part in these activities but as Lent crept up on me this week, I realized that I actually had been unintentionally fasting—from my cell phone. This unplanned act of piety occurred four days before Lent when an unfortunate series of events occurred—my cell phone fell out of my pocket during a visit to the ladies room. (I will graciously spare you the details of its retrieval but it wasn’t nearly as bad as retrieving an orthodontic retainer after one of our children threw it up in the toilet. Kudos to my husband. At least the retainer survived.)
So in order to communicate without my iPhone, I have resorted to methods from the dark ages—texting and emailing through my computer and iPad. While I am grateful for these forms of communication, they are useless for people who don’t text. (You know who you are…) In addition, they don’t always work perfectly. For example, I was supposed to pick up a friend at the airport the day after my phone’s baptism, I mean, immersion. Shortly after I left home, I hit major traffic. An accident had shut down the freeway so while I was stopped, I texted my friend from my iPad indicating that I would be late. She replied that she had texted me the day before and told me that I didn’t need to pick her up. I hadn’t received her text. So much for the limits of technology.
In the days following the death of my phone, I began to notice something different about my life. Like many of you, I take my phone everywhere. If I am at work, it is in my pocket. If I am out, it is in my purse. When I am home, it is wherever I am. Just like a puppy, it follows me from room to room. But I don’t think the absence of my cellular appendage accounts for the internal change I have noticed. The real issue is that when I had my phone, I was constantly checking it—checking FaceBook, checking emails, checking the weather, checking, checking, checking. I am not alone in this constant tinkering with our modern-day toy. It has become a national pastime, might I even say an addiction. So without my phone, I haven’t been checking anything. As a result, there has been more time—time for books, prayer and finishing that quilt. I realize that without my little Apple habit, I am less driven by the tyranny of the urgent. My accidental fasting from my phone might be my new spiritual practice, at least for this week.
Of course, I will get a new phone, probably sooner than later, but when I do, I think I will manage it differently. I will keep the phone in its proper place, as a tool that serves me rather than a mindless activity that consumes my empty time. I have come to cherish the peace I have without the phone and that is something I will not give up, Lent or no Lent.
GENEVA CHINNOCK is a writer and author of Becoming His Beloved: Journey into the Father’s Affection. Geneva has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master in Business Administration. In her spare time, Geneva loves reading, eating bacon and attending live theater. She lives in Southern California with her husband and blogs about matters of faith at TreasuredbyGod.com.