For Lent this year, I had two disciplines: 1) no blogging. 2) no Pepsi.
I had several goals in mind. First, I wanted to eliminate the huge time-suck the internet has become for me. I have tried in the past just to say, “well, I’m NOT going to check this site, or that one” with little success. I am frequently on the computer for all sorts of things, and often a click here leads to a click there… and then I find myself reading about some stranger’s romance (or not) on some island I’ve never heard of and looking at hazy photos snapped with a camera equipped with an eight foot lens. Seriously. (Please keep being my friend.)
A few years ago, I fasted from the internet all together, with all sorts of consequences for my family (like missing every local soccer league’s registration deadline). Now none of my children is ever going to be Mia Hamm. Serious consequences here. So I needed to modify THAT fast. I came up with a fast from blogging, thinking that my time in this space was a kid of gateway drug for me.
Pretty quickly (like maybe on day 2 of Lent) I was NOT blogging and found myself munching late night snacks and reading about some stranger’s “rapidly expanding” baby bump. (I’m not even sure why this person is famous… and I certainly wasn’t convinced I was even seeing a baby bump.) Discipline FAIL. I was keeping the letter of the “law”, albeit temporary law, without getting at the root of this habit I’d like to eliminate. I found myself over those first two weeks of Lent very restless. Unable to settle, or think, or pray. At some point I had the brilliant idea to sit down with my paper journal, and I wrote several pages of thoughts before I finally calmed down. And had my insight: this blog is a creative space for me. God made me to write. I think best with a pen [or keyboard] in my hands, and eliminating my blog cut out one of the few actual positive aspects of the internet for me.
The next day, I saw three bald eagles sitting in a bare tree. Remember how I was asking God to show me another eagle this year? Last time, they were soaring. This year, I needed to be reminded how to rest, how to be still. And I saw three bald eagles sitting perfectly still. [cue stirring music] It was A SIGN.
Anyway, lesson learned. The blog is not my problem. But the internet…. well, I’m sure God will show me what my next step is.
Item 2: Pepsi. Though the caloric burden of my Pepsi habit is considerable, that was not why I was led to fast from Pepsi for Lent. I didn’t have a clue why, but as I was prying about a Lenten fast, God told me to fast from Pepsi. (Which points out to me the fact that the blog fast was my own misguided idea, though I did learn from it.) Most weeks, the only time I have a Pepsi is at work. I get to work and immediately feel entitled to pop open a can and sip it between seeing patients. Why do I do this?
The key word was there: entitled. For whatever reason, in my head my job is a burden. I would love to stop working, and every time I have asked God for permission to quit, He has said no. (I’ve been asking that question in various forms for 17 years.) And because I can’t quit, I feel entitled to a “treat.” But this Lent, I finally looked hard at that sense of entitlement. Why on earth am I feeling sorry for myself? I have meaningful work. Work that challenges my mind and allows me to meet all sorts of people. Work that is different all the time. I get to be present as babies enter the world and as people slip away from this world. I am present with people through huge life transitions. I teach medical students and new doctor and have a chance to influence how they see medicine. I get to walk with people through the Valley of the Shadow of Death– and frequently out the other side. It’s not always this grand, and I have my share of unpleasantness, but I saw that this is blessed work. Honorable work. Work that is an answer to many of my prayers for a space to minister and use my gifts.
That realization came on day 4 of Lent. Only 36 more days without Pepsi. So why did I continue?
I fast because I am finite. There is only so much space in my life, in my days, in my heart. And unnecessary– and unhelpful– habits creep in all the time. A Lenten (or Advent) fast gives me an opportunity to clear out dead to make room for life.