Growing up Catholic, I learned the importance of sacrifice in our lives around this time of year. We prayed, went to Confession and attended Church regularly, and everyone spent a significant amount of time trying to think of something we could sacrifice for Lent.
As we grew, many of us used our Lenten promise as a sort of second New Year’s resolution: something we really meant to do, but needed those few extra months to harden our resolve in order to stick with it. Little sacrifices don’t hurt very much, and it’s easy to convince yourself it’s something meaningful.
Since I became a mother, I’ve returned to the important lessons of my youth, and the reason we celebrate Lent, which is the traditional observation of the 40 days before Easter in the Catholic Church, and observed by a number of Christian followers.
Last year, I gave up Starbucks coffee. It was a very, very long 40 days. Still, I didn’t feel like I was doing it for the right reasons. This year, I vowed to pray over it. I considered what was one of my most precious commodities: time. How was I using my time? What should I be doing differently?
Aside from writing, I was spending much of my time playing games on Facebook. Hours each day, when my work was done and I wanted to relax and block everything out, I’d turn on my computer and plant virtual wheat or slay the vampiric hordes, or tend my fairy garden. It was a great way to pass the time… usually relaxing, often exciting. But it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my Lent.
What I wanted to do was spend the time I’d otherwise spend “getting away from it all”, once the kids were in bed and my laundry was done, thinking about what was important and being thankful for what I had.
So I made an announcement to the hundreds of Facebook friends with whom I play these games: Don’t send me gifts or game requests. I’m blocking the games. I’m ignoring the posts. I’m using my time for other things.
After a few weeks, I discovered I did not really miss it much. I realized I placed way too much importance in pixels on a screen. And, more than that, I realized that I was listening to myself, thinking more about what was really meaningful, and I was more reflective about my day. It made me think more about real sacrifice, and about how anything I could do would be a drop in the bucket in comparison. It made me grateful that I have time to kill at all, and a comfortable way to do it, if I so choose. It made me a little ashamed, too. Those minutes I will never get back again, and I honestly could not tell you what I gained from it. Much better to paint something, or write a letter, or read a book. Pray, even.
Giving up Facebook games was healthy, even. Good for the soul.
And, maybe, Sister Mary Liberata would be proud of me.