The Key to Curbing Your Smartphone Addiction in the Digital Age? Lenten Sabbaths
The February after Fred and I started dating in December 2008, I told him I was preparing for Lent.
“Lint?” He asked.
“Lent.” I said.
“Lint? Like pocket lint?”
“Sort of … but L-E-N-T.”
Lent and lint? They actually do have something in common.
Lent is the liturgical season of removing the metaphorical lint – those tiny, annoying fibers of ego, hatred, impatience, and jealousy, that, over time (like dryer lint) are hazardous to our health and our spiritual lives.
This week, Christians around the world began to pull the “lint” from their pockets and their hearts. Based on the Biblical story of Jesus’s forty-day fast prior to his ministry, Lent is a time where Christians are entering into the wilderness with Christ, where we will undergo deep self-reflection about that which inhibits our connection to God and others.
Kate Bowler, Duke Divinity School professor and author of Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, said it best this week on her blog:
“Lent is the curious part of the Christian liturgical calendar that mediates more on God’s death than God’s presence. What we are reaching for in Lent, really, is life.”
Lent is my favorite holy season, which makes me a little gloomy and strange. But I love Lent’s built-in excuse for taking inventory: What do I need to try or deny that will draw me nearer to God this season? What lessons do I need to learn? What sacrifices am I willing to make to meet Christ in the desert?
Over the years, I’ve taken up a myriad of Lenten practices, including vegetarianism and tech-free Sundays. After the roller-coaster-ride-of-2017, I’m embracing a Lenten practice of returning to sabbath.
At its core, sabbath is the most simple and important spiritual practice we can do. Why?
- It’s Biblical.
- It’s hard.
- It bears so much fruit.
Just like Lent, sabbath is about recalibrating and removing the lint. On the sabbath, we cease from anything we do in ordinary time – work, email, errands, chores, shopping and commuting. Stopping the daily grind activities gives us time to return to our center—God—through pausing, breathing, praying, listening, worshiping, reading, playing, resting and being in community.
Let’s face it: ordinary time is full of “lint”—the tiny stuff that takes up space in our lives, but doesn’t add meaning. There’s a lot to do—and even during the times of life when we’re bored—there’s plenty to distract us from being fully present with God and one another.
So I’m taking what one smartphone-addicted family calls a “Tech Shabbat.” Each Lenten Sunday, I’m putting down my phone in favor of awe. I’m making an effort to slow down in order to remove the “lint” of thinking I’m in charge and the world will fall apart without me and my social media updates. I need to join Jesus in the wilderness—to embrace time for removing my “lint” through renewal, reflection, and reconnecting.
How does your “lint” look for Lent? Think about how how your metaphorical “lint” impedes your health and spirituality, and what you’d like to do about it. Whatever you take away or add—make it intentional.
Maybe a “Tech Shabbat” is not for you this Lent. Want to stay online? Consider how you can incorporate Lent into your social media habits. Or, check out what Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess recommends here: Five books for Lent.