Lenten Reflections

What do nine months without wifi, the Cubs winning the World Series, and Lent have in common? Well, maybe you could suggest that Spring Training happens around the same time as Lent and you’ll need wifi to stream the Cubs winning the World Series again. That may all be true, but I’m going a different direction here.

Since I’m trained as a social scientist, when I reflect on Lent and the idea of fasting, the law of unintended consequences comes to mind as well. I also think about the fact that consequences can be positive or negative. If we work out everyday and fast from sweets the consequences are a toned physique, but if eat high fat, high calorie food every day and fast from working out the consequences are obesity.

When fasting from anything there are some known consequences to be sure, but usually there are unintended consequences we experience as well.

So what do the wifi, the World Series, and Lent have in common for me? A wonderful picture of the law of unintended consequences. Nine months ago I moved into a studio that I can just barely afford on my own. In making this choice, I recognized that there would be some areas I had to sacrifice. I chose not to pay for wifi. Let’s be real, partially this was pure laziness. This was not a very conscious decision, it just happened to be an easy expense to cut – I have data on my phone. But! The results have been life changing.

Because I don’t have wifi, I read more, something I’ve been trying to do since undergrad without success, until now. I cook, clean and care for my living space better. If I want to watch Netflix, I must do so with friends. In watching Netflix only in community, there is greater accountability for what I watch and how long I spend watching. There’s also an opportunity to practice sacrifice built in. I watch things I don’t enjoy, like The Office, and learn more about my friends’ sense of humor when I sacrifice the desire to watch something else in order to appreciate the things they appreciate. My friends serve me when they willingly watch something I desire to watch instead of something they desire. As a group of friends we can practice self-control by waiting until we are together to watch more episodes of a series. These unintended consequences are bearing good fruit.

On the other hand, is the World Series. I’d been sticking to a pretty strict schedule for my life and saying no to a lot of things in order to better steward my time and energy. Then the World Series rolled around and I said yes to some late nights. Then I said yes to more late nights, then I started saying yes to every group gathering I was welcomed to. I signed up for too many things and became overwhelmed. I started cancelling on important things. It took me nearly five months and a call out from some small group members for me to realize the unintended consequences. To see the slow redirection of priorities the decision to have late nights to watch the Cubs win the World Series had on my life. Like the wifi, it was not very conscious. Unlike the wifi, it’s born bad fruit.

I am grateful for the accountability my small group provides and that I am part of The Emerging Leaders Initiative where we were discussing stewardship recently. The Lord used those spaces to bring light to this consequence. I’ve visited the passage on the parable of the talents many, many times over the course of the past year, but wifi and the World Series brought light to my lack of good stewardship in a new way.

So I’m taking some time to course correct. I love that this falls around the Lenten season. It has also helped me recognize that it is important to come to Lent and the idea of fasting with purpose. With intended consequences. While God may still surprise us along the way with unintended consequences, we will bear greater fruit when we come intentionally.

What will you fast from? What intended consequences can you expect? What {good} consequences do you hope to experience? How can you prepare for {negative} unintended consequences? (e.g. the loss of a friendship if you choose to fast from something your friendship has been built upon, etc.) Would love to hear your thoughts!

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