I grew up in the Pentecostal church where “lent” was simply the past tense of “lend”. But over the last twenty years I have gradually become familiar with the church calendar and that somber season leading up to Easter. The term derives from the Old English word “lencten”, meaning spring, and it heralds that time of spiritual preparation Christians undertake as they ready themselves for the death and resurrection of the Lord. On the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world attend solemn services and then receive the sign of the cross made from the ashes of palm fronds burned from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. The ashes convey the frailty of the human condition — both mortality and the fickle condition of the will — and are worn on the forehead as a sign to the world of one’s devotion to Christ and the abnegation of the will.
During Lent it is customary to give up something. Chocolate and meat are old standbys, but an Eastern Orthodox acquaintance of mine annually abstains from his Led Zeppelin collection. Everyone ought to craft a person particular form of self-abnegation in keeping with their own character. And so this year I’ve decided to deal with the tyranny of technology. For the next forty days I’ve resolved that I will only visit my website or check my gmail once a day, during the time 6:30 am-7:30 am. This will be a good discipline because I can see that technology has encroached greatly on my daily life. On an average day I might get 40 emails (including notifications of new blog posts at the website) and that means I end up regularly checking my phone and finding a spare minute or two to respond to comments. The downside of this constant interruption is that I am less present to the world immediately around me. Being intentional about restricting all website and gmail interaction to the quiet, dark early morning hour is a way of beating back that perpetual encroachment.
So if I am a bit delayed in responding to comments over the next forty days, your patience is appreciated. This will be a bit of a test (though, I must admit, not half as difficult as abstaining from coffee).