LENT is here.
Every year Lent creeps up on me like my children used to when I was fast asleep and they were ready to watch cartoons and have breakfast. One day I’m saying Merry Christmas and the next ash is being smudged onto my forehead as a reminder that from dust I came and to dust I shall return. (Sorry Epiphany, we didn’t hang much this year. Maybe next year we can chalk doors together)
For many children, Lent is composed of miserably long days without chocolate and Friday fish dinners that took over pizza night. I’m not sure it is much different for adults. Unless you are a person who truly walks the season of Lent as one of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection, it’s just a time of sacrifices made because of family traditions or church pressure. In recent years, there has been a move toward adding something to one’s life, in the form of service, instead of giving up a favorite dessert. I think that’s a great way for people to experience daily acts of service that may turn from sacrifice to life-giving.
Anyway, this year, as the calendar hit me over the head with a shoe and woke me up to the upcoming season, I decided to try something a little different.
This year I am going to fast from the news. All news, with the minimal exception, is out the door. Gone. How gone you ask?
Thanks for playing, see you during Eastertide if I feel compelled. You have been voted off the island so please put out your torch. I’m sorry, you didn’t receive a rose and your time here is done.
That kind of gone.
I have shared this with a few people and often get the same response, which goes something like this:
“Wait, you’re giving up the news? You? But you love to know what’s going on in the world!”
“Good for you! The news stinks. But this seems like something to make you happy, not struggle or suffer.”
These friends are not wrong. I do love knowing what is going on in the world and this fast will be something that makes me happier.
But there is more to it.
For the past four and a half years I have been on high alert every day. From the moment the 2016 election was announced until the 2020 Inauguration, my shoulders were up, my neck tense, and every day felt like a crisis. Is that a bit of an over-exaggeration? I wish. These years were filled with fear for friends who are LGBTQ+, for the BLM movement, for immigrant families, for DACA Dreamers, the stability of the world, and the instability of our local communities. I was so stressed that every morning I woke up, turned off the alarm, and went to the news. I had to make sure a country wasn’t blown off the map while I was sleeping or another group of people traumatized. This is the reality of living life as an empath. We don’t get the choice to look away once we know something. We live it and feel it with little ability to brush it off and move on. The positive side is that this helps us to be strong social justice champions. On the negative side, there is only so much we can hold before we pop.
And recently I popped.
During spiritual direction this month, words tumbled out about being tired and flat; emotionally exhausted from the last administration and hearing about every single tweet, press conference, and mishandling of people, places, and pandemics. These are all normal responses to trauma and these past several years traumatized me and so many millions of other people. So now that the trauma is over, (albeit the problems we face are not even close to solved) my mind took a beat, realized the trauma ended and is now saying I can restore to factory settings and dump the cache of crap I was lugging around.
I learned something else during that hour of direction and the days that followed. To be a follower, and not only an admirer, of Jesus does not mean I need to know every single move that is made. I know what the issues are. I want to be an informed citizen so I can vote, advocate and live life in a way that tightly aligns with my faith, morals, and ethics. But, does knowing that Chuck and Nancy said this and Mitch said that help me to walk in love? Nope. Not even close. In fact, what I found during these past years is that it was getting harder and harder to walk in love the more I consumed divisive rhetoric online. From passive-aggressive memes, fake news, inflammatory headlines, and endless calls to action (that were direction and leader-less) I was surrounded by noise that I gluttonously consumed and noise that I eventually created myself without even knowing it.
So with the risk of more darkness than light taking over my days, I am abandoning the news so I can restore myself to serve others in ways that Jesus asks from me. I am fasting from the negative media in order to draw closer to Jesus. Removing this content, which won’t be easy, keeps my focus on Jesus and my faith. It permits me the freedom to walk in love without “some restrictions applying”. I pray to see all people as God’s children and not conservative or liberal – instead of just saying they are without actually practicing that belief. I pray I can close the tabs open in my mental browser, clear the cache, and refresh my mental screen.
Whatever you decide to do, or not do, during this Lenten season, may it bring you closer to knowing and loving God. If you would like to share your practices here, I would love to learn about them.