Lenten Reflections: Ash Wednesday

Note: Nowadays, technology is one of the most popular objects of Lenten sacrifice. We’ll be posting a series of weekly reflections on technology and spiritual life on Wednesdays throughout Lent, examining our own use of technology.

One of the biggest reasons why people fast from technology during Lent is that we’re often frivolous in the time we spend with our technology. Many of us feel that the ways we use our smartphones or social media or the internet in general end up being a waste of time. While the promise of the internet is awesome–all of human knowledge immediately at our fingertips all the time–the delivery often misses our expectations. We want meaningful communication and mutual respect and the flowering of knowledge and what we get is us giggling to ourselves in our cubicles while we read  The Dumbest Things Ever Said on the Internet.

We fast from technology because we intuitively feel that technology doesn’t live up to it’s promise and so our time would be better spent praying, meditating, doing good works, giving alms, or just having some extra time. Nevertheless, the promise of technology to give us this extra time is very alluring and we fall for it. The basic premise is always the same:

1. Time is a limited resource.

2. Task A takes you too long.

3. Technology will help you finish Task A faster.

Conclusion: Technology will save you Time.

The problem with this formula is that even when the new technology does save us time, the result is that we don’t know how to spend our extra time. In the name of saving time, we get caught up in our daily emails and checking the weather on our phones and seeing who followed us or who sent us a message and how did our Klout score do and are we gaining or losing thinkfluence or is our web traffic up and on and on and on

Instead of using our new-found time to pray or meditate or do charitable work or even just to rest we get addicted to our time-saving devices. We get our regular work done faster and do more during the day but then we go home and spend more time updating our LinkedIn profile to show off the work we did during the day or explaining to our Twitter followers how busy we were today and somewhere along the way we spend more time showing off about something we did and forget that we just wanted to have some extra time.

The efficiency of technology is a two-edged sword. We do more work in less time and then fill more of our time with new kinds of work. We can do more in less time but then we always want to be doing more. And often, we feel the pressure from our peers or coworkers or family to do more, to be online more, to keep up and to be more ‘productive.’ But I think the Scripture readings from this last Sunday before Lent can remind us of the importance of doing less.

Isaiah reminds us of the care and providence of God:

“Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.”

And Psalm 62 encourages us to truly rest in this promise:

“Only in God is my soul at rest;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.”

And as if these reminders weren’t enough, Jesus goes for the more direct approach:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”

The Scriptures remind us that–as much as we want to control our lives and manage our time and be as productive as possible–no amount of worrying or working will make God care for us more. As much as we want us to believe the promise that technology will save us time and help us do more with less, God asks us, why do you want to do more? What is it that you need to get done? What is it that you are so worried about? Whether it gets done or not, God will never forget us. God doesn’t say, “Only in maintaining a healthy productivity level will our souls be at rest,” but only in Him will our souls be at rest. If we put our hope in anything other else we’ll be disappointed.

And so I think we can all begin Lent asking ourselves, what can we do less of? What ‘time-saving’ technologies are most tempting for us and do they really save us time? How can we be less ‘efficient’ this Lent? How can we spend less time ‘saving time’ and more time resting in God?

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin Robertson
Benjamin Robertson is a founding editor at Second Nature. He has worked in advertising for the Chicago Tribune and Gannett, and now is a web developer at Mediacurrent. He studied Communications and Media Studies under Dr. Read Schuchardt at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has presented papers on Marshall McLuhan, media ecology, and Christianity at the Media Ecology Association, National Communication Association, and the McLuhan's Philosophy of Media Centennial Conference in Brussels. He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Greenville, SC. His personal website is benrobertson.io

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