If you’re my friend on social media you may have seen that I am trying a hard thing for Lent. Indeed, for a millennial, perhaps one of the hardest things: I’m going screen-free. No, not for all forty days (I’d die!) but just for Fridays during Lent, which are my day off and theoretically my Sabbath. I chose this discipline not because phones and laptops are bad, of course, but because I find myself leaning on them as I would a crutch – and I know how lopsided and inflexible crutching can make you, in body, mind, or soul.
This past Friday I was nervous about my challenge, but luckily I had something far better than an iPad to keep me engaged. For much of the day, I had a baby to care for. My dear friend was headed back to work after maternity leave and needed help bridging a few days until daycare started for her daughter, so I headed up to Marin, where I bounced the babe on my knee, sang her some songs, gave her a few bottles, and at noon walked her over to mom’s work for a lunch break visit.
There are some kinds of work, like childcare, which our technological overlords will never be able to take away from us. This can be very good news in a world where the nature of “work” changes so quickly. Even if self-driving cars, robot-cleaned houses, self-checkout stores and drone-delivered meals are the way of the future, we will still need bodies to take care of bodies – especially the very young, the very old, the very disabled and the very ill.
My screen-free day took me out of my mind and into my body. And as such I think it must be a healthy thing to do. I think of the wise statement, “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience — we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Some may interpret this to say their spirituality is at their core — that the spirit is the most important thing. But I often find the more surprising and valuable truth lies in going the other direction: in focusing on the human experiences I am having. This might mean leaving behind the world of thoughts, images, words and ideas, to dwell instead in the earthly mundane, and at the end to find oneself a little more grounded because of it. I think Jesus would approve. After all, he made his ministry among bread and fish, with crowds of children and the bodies of the ill, in water and wine, and in service.
I recommend the screen-free Lenten practice to any of you who need it (especially my fellow social media addicts) and offer at the same time this song, which can become quite an encouraging earworm if you need it this Lent. Carrie Newcomer sings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHxRsSSeNBo
PS – I can’t help it — if you’re a social media addict you should be my friend! @RevTahoe