Two weeks ago, I wrote about my fraudulence and quoted Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s book, The Wisdom of Stability: “Maybe demons kill, but we’re often more comfortable with the frenetic forces that drive us here and there than we are with the radical new way of life that Jesus brings,” (38, The Wisdom of Stability). I didn’t get specific in that post with my confession, as the larger point was this: we must be ruthless when dealing with sin.
Today, I can tell you that I’m entering a Lenten fast to curb my access to the Internet. Let me say that I don’t believe the World Wide Web is some devilish conspiracy. And I don’t believe that living like a Luddite is a more holy and perfect way. But I do know that hurry, preoccupation, distractibility, desire for approval, and disengagement are becoming too reflexive for me.
Every reach for my iPhone is like a tic.
It’s time for me to be more ruthless about my habits of virtual connection to create more space for people, for prayer, for boredom even. It’s time for me to practice the ruthlessness of which Jesus speaks when he says: if your hand causes you to sin, cut if off. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It does you no good to cling to your death.
The irony of course is this: to kill death is to gain life.
Lent is the season we enter into small deaths of denial. Having now written years on the subject of desire, I am the first to caution when the language of denial is abused. Obedience isn’t only doing the undesirable. Holy people don’t exempt themselves from pleasure and fun because desire is sinful.
No, when we deny ourselves, it’s in order that we may desire Christ. Denial is never in and of itself the point. For that matter, desire is never in and of itself the point. The point is always and eternally Jesus – and learning to live the abiding, satisfied life in him.
Would anyone come after me? Jesus has asked. Does anyone wish to follow?
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 9:34
The denials, the small deaths – a Lenten fast: these curb our appetite for the lesser goods upon which we feed that we might grow fonder and more faithful to the greater good, which is God himself.
“Who will enable me to find rest in you?” Augustine asks in The Confessions. “Who will grant that you come to my heart and intoxicate it, so that I forget my evils and embrace my one and only good, yourself?”
I think there is great worth, especially during Lent, to deny oneself in order to desire Christ. I’ve been honest that I haven’t done this in years, so I certainly can’t commend it to you by the steadfastness of my own example.
But whatever you might choose do this Lent as an intentional spiritual practice, may forty days form new habits – and new habits, new loves.
“How great a glory it is to cleave to God, so as to live for him, to gain wisdom from him, to rejoice in him, and to enjoy so great a Good without death, without distraction, without hindrance – this is beyond our power to imagine or describe.” Augustine, City of God
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If you’re interested in examining your own relationship to technology, I would highly recommend you read my friend, Christina Crook’s new book, The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. It is extremely well-researched as well as easily applicable. Christina doesn’t recommend we all get off the grid. Instead, she argues for habits of virtually “missing out” so that we can practice presence in our everyday lives. Here’s a great quote, which resonates with my life as a mother. “The longer I navigate the demands of the Internet, the more grateful I am for my children. They save me every day. At each juncture, their very tangible needs crash against my frailty, and I must reach out to meet them. Without the demands of these little people I would easily slip into spending days the way I spend my nights: glued to the screen. Netflix is my gateway to relaxation, Facebook my voyeuristic portal of delight. Left to my own devices, I’d drain the currency of my life down Alice’s rabbit hole. Instead, I am forced into the present. . .