It’s been a bit quiet here lately, but that will change soon. I have so much to share about the last three months, the trip to Cape Town and one of the best experiences of my life – running an ultra marathon.
But, for today, an explanation.
Lent, for me, is usually synonymous with giving something up.
At a young age, I was taught that the 40 days before Easter were meant to abstain from something that you really liked. My go-to Lenten vice was often junk food, so I stashed away all my chips and bags of candy until after Easter morning mass when I could rip into them and indulge. When I got older, beer seemed like an appropriate choice. I downed spirits and wine instead of my preferred hoppy drink, but I was still withholding from something I really liked, what I thought Lent was about.
I never learned anything from those brief periods of refrain. Sure, jellybeans and spring beer selections tempted me, but I never had to withdraw from deep within my character to hold these Lent promises.
This year, when a friend asked if I was going to give something up, I said no. I am currently living in a developing African country and working as a volunteer, so, the way I see it, I already give up many things, including electricity, running water, reliable transportation and seeing my family. As far as giving things up, I figured that two years of this lifestyle paid me off for a few Lents.
Then one night, while tossing and turning, I was thinking up potential blog posts and Facebook statuses. I thought about what kind of likes and comments they would conjure and, then, my blatant need for acceptance slapped me.
Especially since I am so far away from home, but even when I am not, I use social media as a way to gage people’s approval of me and spend actual time planning the right phrasing of updates and when I’ll post so they reach the most possible eyes.
Why do I gage my self worth on virtual nods of approval? Can’t who I am be good enough? Can’t my faith in God’s love for me be good enough?
So, a few days after the start of Lent, I decided to give up posting online. I still grazed my social media outlets but I refrained from posting on Facebook, my blog and Twitter. A few pre-scheduled blog posts and re-Tweets went through and I continued to use the platforms to communicate with friends, but all original material was cut off.
As an addict to others’ opinion of me, this was harder than I expected. I wanted to send out my opinion on political matters or show school pride when my alma mater secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament. I wanted to feel justified as my nerves spiked before the race or I had a particularly bad day at school. However, when I wanted to post something, I asked myself why. What persona do I want people to conclude from that post and is that really who I am?
My relationship with God has been strained the last few years and I wondered if I cared more about His approval than others I could find a bit more faith. At about this time, I joined a Bible study with a few PCVs. We read passages and discussed them through Blackberry Messenger since we live on opposite sides of the country. As I dived into my Bible deeper than I have in years, I rediscovered a piece of faith that I lost in almost loves and evacuations.
When I was tempted to post something online, I decided to shout out the sentiments to God. Look how well my team did! Maybe tomorrow will be better. I scribbled Tweets into my journal and still pounded blogs on my keyboard without hitting publish. For a while, the only people that needed to see these words were God and myself.
When Easter came, or actually the day before, I went back to posting online and realized that the desire for likes and reTweets was still there. It bothered me that certain people didn’t like my ultra status or that only a few people notice the radio silence on this blog. But then I remembered that I didn’t run an ultra for other people and I didn’t go to the Peace Corps or start a blog to impress others. Those things are part of a destiny meant for me, one that God has guided me through.
My obsession with other’s opinions of me is too deep to erode in 40 days, and that is OK. I am human. In the end, though, my connection to God is a bit stronger and my faith a bit deeper. This Lent, I didn’t give something up, instead, I found what I’ve been missing and renewed motivation to keep searching for more.