Whenever I think about Lent and what I would like to do to deepen my spirituality during these 40 days, I remember the worst Lent ever. When I was a child, Lent meant “giving up”something, making a sacrifice, depriving myself of something. I didn’t know about taking positive steps to grow closer to God, only about making space in my life to make more room for God.
As I was growing up, I gave up something different each year. Candy, desserts, eating between meals, soda. The year that I was thirteen, I really wanted to do something special and make a big sacrifice. I decided that I would give up television. It was a terrible Lent, one of the worst 40 day periods in my life.
The problem was not that I couldn’t watch tv. The problem was that I ended up being isolated from my family. I hadn’t thought about this aspect of giving up tv. Each evening, after dinner and dishes, my entire family would gather in the living room and settle in around the tv. Some of us might be reading or doing crafts or working on homework, but we would all be together in the room with the television.
For the first few days of Lent, I spent each evening alone in my room. I did homework. I listened to music. I read books. I was so lonely. The evenings seemed so long. I tried to sit at the dining room table, so that I could be near my family, but I found myself continuously drawn toward the tv. As I caught myself listening to the television, I realized that the dining room was too close. I went back up to my room.
As Lent dragged on, I grew more and more lonely. I tried to keep busy. I tried to make the sacrifice mean something. I prayed. I read the Bible. I read so many books. I didn’t miss the tv, but I missed my sisters. I missed my family. I could sometimes convince someone to hang out with me in my room for a while, but the pull of the family in the living room always seemed to win out eventually and I would end up alone.
I hated that Lent. I was never so glad to arrive at Easter Sunday. I learned a lesson about thinking through the consequences of an action. Over the course of that Lent, I did break my addiction to television. I realized how much time I had been spending in front of the tv. I made lots of space in my life for quiet and reading and prayer. I realized how much I loved my family, how much I liked being in the same room with them. I guess it wasn’t such a bad Lent after all.