What I gave up for Lent

I’m no expert on Lent, meaning I can’t give you the history of when and why, but I did grow up observing the practice of giving something up for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent allows us to remember the sacrifice Jesus gave for us by sacrificing something in our own lives. When I was young I picked chewing gum because it wasn’t that difficult to give up. I did this for 6 years in a row.

For the last few years I have not participated in Lent simply because I had nothing I felt like I needed to give up. After a failed attempt at cutting out ice cream, only to gorge myself on other sweet treats, I felt abstaining was a better option. My faith is based on relationship, not hollow rules and traditions. Why would Lent be an exception? I felt good in this decision year after year, especially when one year a roommate bragged about how easy it was for her to give up sugar while she poured a glob of honey onto a strawberry.

Which leads me to now, the year I gave up something for real. This year I chose to participate in Lent because my soul and my habits needed a recalibration. Somewhere between endless free time and desperation I fell into the pit of hours of binge watching to the point of losing almost all of my energy. The red flag for me was when it took me just over a week to get to season 5 on 2 separate shows. Not a proud moment, but the moment I said, “I have a problem.”

What do I mean by recalibrate? I just felt off. I’ve been in a relationship with Jesus for 12 years; We’re at the point when I can just sense something before he says something – we’re that close. After 6 hours of one show I just felt… gross. I would look up and notice the sun had set and I felt like I wasted my day (that had started at 11 am). And I would do that for 3 and 4 days in a row. I would sit for 20 minutes to kind of listen to God, maybe read my Bible (*gasp* I know), and maybe pray a quick sentence for someone. Then I would rush to catch up on Liz Lemon’s life, only to sit there through 8 episodes before moving again.

Basically, I’m using Lent as my intervention to focus back on Jesus. My initial reaction was to give up Netflix completely, but I realized if I was doing something for Jesus I wanted to get his input. So I prayed and asked him what he wanted me to give up. “Netflix is not the issue – binge watching is. I want you to focus on the root,” he responded. So that’s what I’ve given up – binge watching.

What does this look like? It looks like limiting myself to 1 episode of 1 show per day. So if I watch the latest episode of Survivor today, I have to wait until tomorrow to watch Leslie Knope get married. At first, this was SUPER difficult. It felt like torture because I had so many hours to fill in a day. But this wasn’t meant to be easy like pausing my gum addiction. It was meant to prioritize my time back on Jesus – be it reading, writing, praying, meditating, coloring, or exploring. A week went by and I rediscovered books. I learned my new library system is awesome and I can listen to a book a lot faster than I can read one. It’s also more fun when the author reads it, because it’s like they’re talking directly to you.

After two weeks I felt like more like myself, as if I had been a deflated version of myself prior and the Holy Spirit breathed life back into my being. It helps I finally have a job to go to (not every day), but I’ve also changed my priorities that I can go several days without watching any episodes. Plus, in the last month I have read/listened to 8 books. Clearly I still have a lot of time on my hands, but now I use it for good instead of wasting it.