I have decided to give up Instagram for Lent. I haven’t taken part in this aspect of Christian tradition in the past, but this year I was curious about what it might teach me. Shrove Tuesday arrived (the day before Lent), and as I stood flipping pancakes for my boys’ supper, I wondered if perhaps there was something in my life that I could practice letting go of in order to draw closer to God.
Instagram came to the forefront of my mind because it had been bothering me lately. After a week of being sick in bed I noticed how addicted I was to checking the page many times a day. Sure it is fun to see what your friends are up to, but I realized how desperate I was for entertainment, looking to Instagram as a way to pull me out of the boredom I was feeling. I wanted to work on that.
I didn’t like the habit I had formed of reaching for my phone instantly when I had nothing to do, or the second I felt bored or lonely or wanted to avoid whatever negative feelings were creeping in. Instead I wanted to find peace even in the discomfort. Mostly, I wanted to be talking to God more.
I practiced this yesterday as I sat in the doctor’s office. The room was crammed with bodies signalling to me that I might be waiting for a while. I shuddered at the thought of all the viruses contained in one small area and sanitized my hands multiple times before finding a seat. I found one between an elderly lady in a coughing fit and a younger guy with a pale face and eyes closed in pain.
I desperately wanted to take out my phone and begin some mindless scrolling to at least mentally escape this place. But I resisted the urge, left the phone in my purse and got myself comfortable with the uncomfortable idea of not having anything to distract me. I prayed through the Lord’s prayer in my head, stopping after each line and reflecting on what God might want to be doing in and around me, what daily bread was needed for myself and my loved ones today, what I might need forgiveness for and what I might need to forgive.
The prayer ended and my name unfortunately still hadn’t been called, but I felt better to have prayed. To have accessed that place inside of me where the spirit is beckoning me to reach out, where God wants to meet me and bring me beyond my immediate thoughts and reactions.
Henri Nouwen wrote “Be sure to taste the moment to the full. The Lord always reveals himself to you where you are most fully present.”
That waiting room seemed much holier when I was done praying than when I had first stepped inside. Not because of anything I had done but because I seized the opportunity to wake up to the present moment instead of resisting it. Holier because I chose faith instead of forgetfulness, hope instead of worry, and prayer instead of mindlessness.
Eugene Peterson’s translation of Colossians 3:2 in The Message sums this up beautifully:
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. – Colossians 3:2 (The Message)