February 27, 2024

From the Rector…

We often get bogged down in all-or-nothing thinking, especially when it comes to Lenten discipline. When we “give something up” we set a goal of abstinence rather than limitation. I am sure that is grounded in centuries of the church promoting Lent as a time of abstinence, but I am not sure that this is always the healthiest or even the most pragmatic approach to Lent. Sheer willpower does not, necessarily, improve our relationship with Jesus Christ. Willpower is not a bad thing and may well be exactly the spiritual discipline one needs to practice in order to learn that one can do “all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But if the demands of abstinence place too high a toll on us, we often just cash out, giving up on our practice and writing off Lent before we’ve even hit the halfway mark.

In this second week of Lent, we invite you to do something different. The “All Our Understandings: Loving God with All Our Hearts” practice this week invites you to “take a break” from screen time. If the first thing you do in the morning is check your phone, maybe make an intentional effort to wait an hour after getting up before you pick up a screen. Or when you are in the car, throw your phone in the backseat and listen to the radio or roll down the windows and see if you can hear the birds singing.  Maybe at supper time, the whole family covenants with one another to not have any screentime during meal prep, eating, and clean-up and instead everyone helps together. Whatever works for you—be it ten minutes to ten hours—take some time off from your screens this week.

In T. S. Eliot’s poem, “Burnt Norton,” he says,

Over the strained time-ridden faces

Distracted from distraction by distraction

Filled with fancies and empty of meaning

Tumid apathy with no concentration

These lines seem so relevant to our fixation on our screens, even though they were written almost one hundred years ago. We have become a people distracted from distraction by distraction. We are quick to lose focus and forget what we had started to do. We get lost in our screens on social media, or scrolling through the news, or playing games. We choose Wordle over morning devotions. We scroll instead of praying. We pick up our phones when we are bored or don’t want to face the realities of the day, looking for an escape. We get stuck in a cycle of lights and bytes that doesn’t draw us further on and further up. Instead, it sucks us down into a darkness devoid of true joy or real meaning and purpose for our lives, drawing us into places of apathy and destroying our ability to concentrate.

Take an intentional break from the worrisome distraction of the little box we carry with us throughout our day. You don’t have to turn it off. Setting an alarm for however long you can stand it and putting the phone in your drawer while you are at work may well be enough of a break to decrease the amount of distraction in your life. It’s not about abstaining from your phone forever or even for the whole of the season of Lent. Taking a break from your screens is a time limited, intentional action, to help in organizing life and regaining control over the sea of distraction that our notifications can drown us in. While you are at it, maybe take off that smart watch as well.

There is no such thing as a distraction-free life. But there is the possibility to live more intentionally and limit our distractions. Taking a break this week is an opportunity for you to experiment with such a life. Studies show that the average human picks up the phone 300 times a day—maybe by taking a break, we can decrease that amount and hopefully we can begin to open a little more space for God.

Light and Life,