With the Resurrection weekend behind us, and the beauty of Eastertide yet to come, I thought it would be good to reflect on a decision I made. I decided to give up podcasts for Lent.
It was a bad decision.
Sometime before Ash Wednesday I gave thought to what sacrifice made the most sense during this year’s Lenten season. Giving up food was a complicated affair, giving up technology wasn’t an option with a book launch in the middle of Lent.
I sorted through the other options: chocolate, gluten, alcohol, etc. and none of them seemed compelling. Why? Because a Lenten sacrifice should be something that leaves a gaping hole, something I miss enough to replicate the pain of sin and death.
The answer arrived swiftly, but quietly. Podcasts.
Every day, whether while I’m running or driving to and from various locations, I listen to podcasts. There are between 4-5 podcasts in my normal listening routine, barring times when I need to catch up on old episodes, etc.
These are things I would miss. I would feel the weight of their absence.
So, the plan was to discontinue listening to podcasts for the duration of Lent and instead create time for silence in the car on my journeys. Ash Wednesday came and I began the journey.
At first, I had to work hard to remember not to plug in and throw on an episode. I am a person who enjoys protracted times of silence, so I had no fear about the quiet of the car.
The truth is this Lent sacrifice made me miserable.
I wrestled with distraction, with wild and erratic thoughts while driving. The compulsion to check social media at every stoplight became overwhelming, and more than once I heard the horn of the car behind me. The light had changed.
The ability to focus drifted and faded over the weeks leading up to Easter. I noticed a significant lack of energy and wisdom.
Of course, I didn’t come to this bigger picture until this past Monday. With the celebration of Resurrection, I also celebrated a return to the traveling companions of my podcast world.
I felt something happen with the first episode I listened to. A familiar feeling. It felt like eating solid food after a long illness, each bit tasting better than the rest. The hum of inspiration and encouragement achieved maximum volume in my heart.
My Lenten sacrifice left me spiritually emaciated – starving, malnourished, and dry. But perhaps this was a good, holy, and helpful thing?
So what do I make of all this? There are a few things that I can see now that I’ve “eaten” a few episodes this week.
The content we ingest has an impact on us.
For a long time, I have lived by the idea that I can’t write well unless I’m reading well. Strangely my reading also suffered during this reading period.
Whatever we put into our body, mind, and spirit has an impact. I know this, and you know this, but it is easy to forget because we are typically awash in a sea of content. There is an important distinction to be made however, one that I learned during Lent:
The content we ingest feeds us.
Just as a diet of only microwave pizza rolls (bliss, I know) adversely affects our health, a diet of good and natural stuff gives life back to us. Not only that, our body begins to expectthat kind of food and respond well when it hits the system.
The same is true of our minds and spirits. We are given calories and carbs for the creative work of life via the content we ingest. Of course, you could also say that the content we avoid has an impact as well. In either case,
The health of our lives is based on the quality of content we ingest.
My Lent sacrifice was the best bad idea I’ve had (in a while)
While I stumbled back into my podcasts, the meat of my soul made lean through lack, I savored the sounds.
We often forget the presence of goodness that comes through the absence of goodness. To surrender something that, unknown to me at the time, gave me such energy and life is to realize how good the gifts of my life really are.
Jesus surrendered his life in the body, and not because the body or the life was detestable and he wanted to move us to some ethereal plain.
Jesus’ suffering at Easter, mirrored in the Lenten sacrifices, is meant to show the goodness of life in the body that we have and often neglect. Pain reminds us of this goodness. Starvation of body and spirit can bring us back around.
It is through deciding to put ourselves into the not-goodness in healthy ways that we are reminded. We then can come strongly and confidently into gratitude.
So, next Lent I’ll probably repeat the process. Then the Monday after the tomb is empty, I’ll crawl back to the pantry and pull out those good and nourishing bites.