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An Electronic Lenten Sacrifice – Can I Do It?

They say the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one in the first place.  So, here I go…

Hello, my name is Joanne, and I’m addicted to my Blackberry.

Hubby’s been hinting for a while now that I’ve gone overboard with the phone.  I always laughed at the thought.  I mean, yes, I tend to curl up with it when watching TV, and I can’t sit in the passenger seat of the car for more than 10 minutes without pulling it out of my purse and checking it.  I guess it’s true that one of the first things I do in the morning is check my email on the phone, and sometimes read the news.  I leave it on my desk all day, and check it regularly.  Which makes no sense, of course, since I’m already sitting in front of a computer, so I don’t need to check my email on the phone, but I still do.  If the phone is sitting within view at any time (and it always is), and the little red light is blinking, I am compelled to check it…just in case.  I can’t help myself.  I know in my head that it’s probably junk mail that just showed up in my inbox, but you never know, right?  At lunchtime, I take it with me, as does everyone else at our table, and we browse the news and check our Facebook pages while we chat distractedly.  Noticing that was my second clue (after Hubby’s comments) that I might have a problem. 

As I type this, the Blackberry is indeed in sight.  And it’s blinking.  And it is killing me not to pick it up.  But I can’t.  You see, it occurred to me today as I pondering the Lenten season that the phone had to go.  Not completely, mind you – I’ll carry it for security and work.  But if I’m home, or I’m at work, where I have easy access to computers if needed, I will NOT check emails or news on the Blackberry.  And if I’m shopping or relaxing and don’t need access to a computer, I will not check the phone.  I have given up all unnecessary smart phone use until Easter, with one small exception.  I am allowing myself a brief dispensation when traveling by air, which I have to do this month, because I do need to stay in touch with airline alerts and transportation in the airports.  But that’s it.  No unnecessary Blackberry use.  For 40 days.  I think I just felt a chill….

Hubby’s comments were my first clue.  Lunch with mature, funny, intelligent co-workers while we all stared at our phones was the second.  The third and final straw was last Sunday.  The TV was on.  I was reading the New York Times on my Kindle.  And suddenly I realized that, while holding – and reading –  the Kindle in my left hand, I was checking my email on the Blackberry with my right hand.  Seriously?  Watching TV and reading is a multi-task I can usually handle, but reading two electronic gadgets at the same time, one in each hand, is just a little over the top, even for me.  Was I expecting each eyeball to read a separate screen?  How could I possibly retain anything I was reading, seeing, or hearing?  The answer, of course, is that I couldn’t.  And yet, I was trying!

I’m not Catholic, so the idea of giving something up for Lent and not eating meat and all of that is not really part of my spiritual journey.  But Protestants have started talking more about giving things up for Lent – the traditional season of somber reflection leading up to the celebration of Easter.  It’s a symbolic recognition of the sacrifices our Lord made when He allowed His Son to be crucified here on earth.  For a week, I’ve been telling folks that I wasn’t giving up anything, I was adding something – daily Bible reading.  But that plan wasn’t feeling very satisfying to me, and I knew there was something else I needed to do.  Setting aside the ridiculously powerful Blackberry seems much more substantial – a true change in my life.  And yes, I know that it’s crazy to admit a phone is “powerful”.  And that damn light is still blinking.  And I so want to reach for it.  But instead, I’ll say a quick prayer and ignore it.

Or try to ignore it.  But it’s blinking.  There’s an email there for me.  It might be important.  Because I get so many important emails.  Maybe I should just check it quickly.  I won’t pick it up – I’ll just push the roller ball and glance at the screen. 

But no – I won’t.  It’s a stupid phone.  I’m old enough to remember the days before TV remotes (yes, we had to walk to the television to change the channels), so I sure as hell do not need a pocket-sized computer to get through my day. 

It’s time to embrace doing one thing at a time.  Time to remember how to actually focus on one thing (or one person) with all my heart. 

The light’s still blinking.  It’s mocking me.  Tempting me. 

It’s going to be a long Lenten season, but the sacrifice will be sharp enough to remind me why I’m doing it in the first place.  And I’ll sure be praying – a lot!  Hopefully I can forever break the nonsensical, irrational hold the Blackberry has on me.  I know I can do it.  I know it.

But right now…. I need to leave this room and that blinking, blinking, blinking, blinking Blackberry.

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