This year I am giving up facebook for Lent, and I pretty much announced it on facebook. Judging from the people who think that's a good idea, I gather that I am not the only person who finds it a timesucker, a mild addiction that does not give you the buzz it once did (or maybe never did). And it turns out it's pretty easy, so not much of a discipline. But it will save me some time--for something better, I hope. And it is a reasonable jumping-off point to ponder why we do this Lenten thing.
We watched an old episode of "The Vicar of Dibley" about Lent last week, and each of the characters was suggesting annoying habits that the others should give up. That concept was what I guess you could call Temporary Character Correction--doing something you should do all the time, but only for Lent. The irony of that approach is that on Easter, arguably the holiest day of the Christian year, you get to resume your evil or annoying ways.
I've tended to give up something that is harmless but has me a bit in its jaws, such as salty snacks, or shopping, or, well, facebook.
There is also the option of adding a positive discipline that you think would do you good, but which you can't commit to for the long haul. Last year I tried going to bed before 1130 p.m., something a lot of my friends would have to try very hard not to do. I simply never made it. It was the biggest failure I've ever had at Lenten disciplines. Second only to the other positive action I tried a few years ago, keeping a journal (12 out of 40 days). These may actually be better for the soul, but harder to do than a "fast". Who would have guessed?
My daughter is much more heroic than I; she has actually given up fiction, and chocolate. I have never even fasted from coffee.
It all comes down, I suppose, to, what is the point, and that is something I am still trying to figure out. I think Lent is a time to get a little more interior and God-ward, and anything that helps you do that, or reminds you how enslaved you are to everything that makes that hard (the truth is supposed to set you free) is at least potentially helpful. If anyone actually reads this and has any thoughts on the value of Lenten disciplines, or avoids them entirely for good or bad reasons, let me know. Just don't post it as a facebook status update, or it'll never do me any good.