By Lauren Balfour, parishioner at Grace Northridge Church in San Antonio, Texas
Lent is a season to remember what is and is not truly ours through the act of fasting. Time, resources, pleasures, favorite foods or drinks—any of these, the Holy Spirit may nudge us to fast from. For a few years now, my fast has been from social media. I’m not an active contributor to Facebook or Instagram, but I do seem to love whiling away time scrolling, using my phone to stave off boredom or loneliness or impatience. When I fast from social media, I realize how little control I have over time. Without social media, in the empty moments of waiting that are a part of daily life, I just have to be patient and be in my own thoughts. Suddenly I find myself more available to open my Bible app or to say a short prayer when a friend comes to mind. It is not that social media is innately harmful; it’s that my flesh loves entertainment and the enemy loves distraction. Sometimes doing what’s not quite right is just as detrimental as doing what is wrong.
Lent is part of the church calendar. For those raised in liturgical church settings, the church calendar may feel passé or unremarkable. However, I bounced between denominations and non-denominational churches during my late childhood and early adulthood. When I came into the Anglican fold, the church calendar amazed me. It was a way to mark time other than by consumer culture, which jumps from celebration to celebration (that is, something to shop for to something else to shop for) with little regard for seasons and certainly no time for resting or reflecting. I couldn’t believe I had never known that we as God’s family have our own calendar that stands counter to this empty cycle of holiday consumerism. Tish Harrison Warren writes, “In the liturgical year there is never celebration without preparation. First, we wait, we mourn, we ache, we repent. We aren’t ready to celebrate until we acknowledge, over time through ritual and worship, that we and this world are not yet right and whole … . We fast. Then we feast.” Our celebrations are so much richer and sweeter for the time spent in preparation.
Lent in particular is a season for preparation, for repentance. Reflection on our own brokenness and the fallen state of our world leads to repentance, asking God for his mercy to come and to do what only he can—make us whole and make things right. The glorious spring warmth and celebration of Easter are fuller, deeper and richer for having first acknowledged the truth and taken time to absorb God’s love and goodness. What heights of joy lie before us! But first, let us rest, repent and reorient our hearts and minds back to God’s incredible love.
Lauren Balfour is a two-time graduate of the University of Georgia with a master’s degree in education. She is married to Robert Balfour, who is a missional resident and is in the ordination process with Grace Northridge Church in San Antonio, Texas. She was a school librarian and now stays home with their 2-year-old son and 6-month-old foster daughter.