On Tuesday evening, I stood over a smokey frying pan in my kitchen, windows and doors wide open to give the smoke alarm a break. My three children and lovely husband occasionally appeared, plate in hands, ready to receive their next pancake. Within half an hour, I was sat at the dining room table, eating my pancakes.On the table in front of me, lay the chaos of Shrove Tuesday Evening: a spoon stood upright in the tin of Lyle's Golden Syrup, an orange bottle of Reece's Peanut Butter Sauce lay on its side, open and oozing out onto the pine. Little plastic Jiff Lemon lemon-shaped bottles sat on the table-top, surrounded by random sprinkles and little piles of caster sugar, the lid of the Kilner jar of caster sugar flopped open, small pieces of pancake inside and a lemon-and-sugar coated spoon sat next to it. As I devoured my last pancake and chatted with my husband, a thought drifted in and out of my mind, "Only a few more hours of Facebook. Quick! Use the opportunity while you can! Don't miss anything!"
I'm pretty rubbish at giving anything up. There is one exception to that - exercise. I can easily give up exercise, but that's probably because I never took it up in the first place.Yep, utterly rubbish at giving stuff up...particularly food....and anything I like doing...which is basically everything I do as I rather like my life! Lent is something that my really well-behaved Anglican friends always did as we were growing up. Their efforts mainly involved things like not biting their nails, not eating chocolate and giving up TV. I didn't do Lent. In fact, I'm not sure that I have ever remained "in the Lent Zone" ever. Not even as a grown up.
But this year, I will. For a few months I have realised that I have an addiction which is interfering with my life. It takes me away from my family, my husband and God. After recently reading one of Russell Brand's books, I have considered addiction a little more. Now I'm pretty sure that my definition of addiction is somehow incorrect, but it is the one that makes sense to me. Addiction is a repeated behaviour. This repeated behaviour detrimentally affects the addicted person and their family and friends. This repeated behaviour becomes the first thought of the day, and the domitating thought until the end of the day. This repeated behaviour pushes everything else aside. It ignores precious people and their needs, and becomes selfish and relentless in its need to be satisfied.
I cannot count the number of times I have delayed conversation with my children by using the phrase "In a minute" or "I'm just in the middle of something" whilst checking the Facebook app on my mobile phone. I do not know how many times I have absent-mindedly chatted on the phone whilst staring at the laptop (on my lap), checking out somebody's holiday snaps. When I wake up in the morning, I feel a need to check Facebook. I need to see what everyone is doing, thinking, and planning that day. I need to know what is happening outside of my world. I need to connect with others, not by talking to them or even sending them a message, but just simply by knowing what they are saying.
There are very few occasions when I read anything that might be considered vital. I read complaints about children or husbands. I read reports of trips to the doctor about in-grown toenails or bad backs. I read funny anecdotes about children getting their words mixed up. I read moans about grumpy neighbours. I see photos of parties that I wasn't invited to, and that I'm grateful to have missed. I see photos of a "first lost tooth". I receive (always unwanted) invitations to play Candy Crush or whatever the current trendy (addictive) game is. I read articles about the idiocy of various politicians or celebrities. I see death announcements for much-loved actors. I look at silly photos of animals stuck in vases.
Facebook has informed me of some big stuff. Facebook told me that my friend's marriage was over. Facebook told me that the beautiful daughter of our precious friends had leukaemia. Facebook told me that one of my "youth girlies" had met the love of her life and was getting married. Facebook showed me that I wasn't alone in feeling devastating grief at the death of a beautiful young girl who I watched grow from a slightly awkward teen into a stunning, confident young woman. Facebook told me that my friend's husband had suddenly died whilst on holiday. All of these announcements were a Call To Action. They caused me to phone, pray, visit. They woke me up from my "Everything Is Awesome" slumber and shot me, like a human canonball into the Real World of other people's suffering, struggles,joys and celebrations. They made me move.
Facebook has been a great place for me to document my family. Holidays, walks in the woods, successful homeschool mornings, days at the beach, baking victories, awarded certificates, new pets, those rarely-completed DIY jobs. They've all hit Facebook and been kindly received or mercifully ignored!
I don't have a moral objection to Facebook. I don't consider myself "above" Facebook. I just need to be honest with myself. My name is Sally, and I am addicted to Facebook. I am helpless to its call. I need some time out. I need God's help. Even when I decided to blog this morning, my fingers automatically typed "www.faceboo..." I suddenly realised what I was doing and stopped myself. Even my fingers, my body, my muscles are in a habit that needs to be broken.
I guess I could give it up completely. But, I know that Facebook provides a simple solution to broad announcements of big events in the lives of people who mean a lot to me. It is a helpful way for me to remain in-the-loop. Ultimately, I love my friends and I love to be available to show love to them, to support them and to stand with them. I don't want to miss those Calls To Action. But I definitely need to reset my priorities. I need to listen and rest. I need to wonder and wander. I need to put my flippin' phone down! It's time to give it up. Just for a while.
Lent represents a time to go without and trust in God's power to sustain me. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, going without. In that place He was introduced to Temptation. He resisted with God's power of sustenance. I'm not going with out food or water, just Facebook. I'm sure I'll be fine.
February 10th and 12th come around with unceasing regularity (once a year, oddly enough!)....we've had a few tears this week. It's now 6 years for me and ...