Lent & Digital Detox
Lent & Digital Detox
By Susan B. Arico, Deer Run alumna & parent
What is Lent, and why is it a thing that Christians talk about? This is a worthwhile question to ask.
Lent is the forty-day season that precedes Easter, a time set aside for focus on sin and repentance. During Lent, Christians prepare their hearts to mark the events of Jesus’s betrayal and crucifixion. It’s a season of remembering our sins and cultivating gratitude for Jesus’s death on our behalf. Lent also echoes and marks Jesus’s forty days being tempted in the wilderness. It also prepares us to fully celebrate Jesus’s victory over death on Easter – which marks the end of Lent.
The practice of Lent is almost as old as Christianity itself, with historians placing its start between 100 and 350 AD. However, many Protestants disengaged from commemorating Lent after the Reformation, as they broke away from various Catholic practices. (There’s a great, short description of Lenten history here.) In recent decades, more Protestants – from an array of denominations – are returning to the practice of Lent and entering the season in various ways.
Lent has a solemn and confessional character to it because of its focus on sin, and it traditionally includes fasting – a practice of abstaining from food in some way. Fasting humbles us, helps us realize our true dependence on God, and enables us to draw closer to him. While we may think of fasting as only for the super-spiritual, the Bible mentions it more than 75 times (more often than baptism)! It’s a normal part of the believer’s life.
In the Bible, fasting refers only to giving up food, but in today’s world, we often think of it as limiting any kind of pleasurable activity to focus on God. Many people today engage in non-food fasting experiences; I really like this creative list by Jenny Uebbing: “Some non-food ideas for fasting.”
One type of Lenten fast that many implement is a digital detox, since we “moderns” tend to be so reliant on our screens and devices. They’re often idols that take the place of God in our lives. There are many ways to implement a digital detox; I write about several in 3 types of digital detox (and why you should do one).
If you decide to do a digital detox as part of your Lenten practice, two resources to consider are Wendy Speake’s The 40-Day Social Media Fast or my new devotional, Your Faith and Your Phone: a 30-Day Devotional. Both can take you deeper into the experience of limiting screen time to focus on God… and you might be surprised at how powerful such a practice can be. We see the effect on faith—that limiting digital exposure can have when we send our kids to Brookwoods, Deer Run and MRO. At camp, they’re tech-free, which is one real highlight of the camp experience for our kids, in my mind.
One of the most beautiful confessional prayers comes from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which dates back to 1550. It’s a favorite of mine, and I leave it with you in hopes that it might enrich your journey to draw closer to God this Lent – however you commemorate it. (Lent starts this coming Wednesday, March 2nd)
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Susan Bradley Arico is a digital wellness expert and writer who focuses on how phone use affects our souls. She’s the author of Your Faith and Your Phone: a 30-Day Devotional and creator of the digital detox guide Reset: 21 Days to a New Relationship with Your Phone. She was a Deer Run camper for six years, on staff for three (where she met her husband), and is currently parent to four campers. Connect with her at www.susanbarico.com and on Instagram at @susanbarico.