When various blog-friends began talking about an internet fast for Lent, my first reaction was, Whoa! That is a *great* Lenten penance! In every word they wrote, I recognized myself, but I felt sure that I couldn’t do it myself. After all, the reason I began blogging was to develop a “platform” (if you’re not a writer and don’t know what I’m talking about, spare yourself the pain), and although the purpose has evolved, platform-building remains important. I can’t just take a break from blogging for “forty” days. Besides, I have assignments and deadlines—articles, and a second book of flute pieces to finish and send, not to mention the neglected novel that I am determined to submit this year. I have to use the web.
If that sounds like a string of excuses, it’s because it is.
In the end, I settled for a compromise. I decided to fast from checking blog stats. I knew how hard it would be, even though it sounds so trivial. But I wasn’t counting on the persistence of temptation!
I begin the day by posting, which is accessed through the dashboard, upon which the basic hits counter resides. I thought, at first, that I might be able to sneak an “accidental” peek in the morning while opening up my blog. (So much for good intentions.) But it is just below the level of the opening screen. Any peek would require a deliberate breaking of the fast on my part.
The full “stats” page is an easy click, a bright blue link, cheerily taunting me from the left navigation bar. On the blog proper, the total hits counter beckons. All I would have to do is glance at the number and do a little math, and I’d know my daily hits.
I resist, but oh, it’s hard. My whole consciousness strains toward the vain affirmation of those little numbers. Numbers that, in the grand scheme of things, are so very unimportant. How did I get so attached to them? Is this withdrawal?
As Michelle at Graceful points out, it’s amazing how much time is freed up. I am doing more dishes, more straightening, more playing with the kids, and getting more writing done. I’m not sure that’s really the point; I have this feeling that I should be spending that “free” time in prayer and reflection. In fact, I’m almost sure of it. But unlike Advent, I don’t have a plan for Lent yet, to help me achieve my spiritual goals—only an idealized vision. It’s a vision that’s based on my own experiences, but the years in which I really embraced the great, holy emptiness of Lent most powerfully were the years I spent in Iowa, far from home, without transportation on a suitcase campus, where life was focused pretty much entirely on me. Obviously, that’s not the case anymore. I have to grow into a new way to experience the emptiness. And it may not be realistic for years to come. I mean, silence and stillness are just not things that mesh well with parenthood.
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Yet somehow, I have to find them. I need to walk through that desert. I wonder, is this fast of mine actually accomplishing anything useful in terms of closeness with God?
Maybe I’m too close to it to know, right now. Maybe the answer to that question will be revealed in time. And maybe I’m just floundering. But I guess that even a failed attempt is a step along the path.
I won’t pretend I know the answer, but do you think it’s possible that God’s Lenten gift to you is that feeling of freedom? That sense that you’re able to get more done in your busy and *highly worthwhile* daily ministry as a mom? Maybe the only closeness He seeks is that acknowledgment and gratitude that you can offer for the relative ease that you’ve noticed in these last few days. Just some thoughts!
Not checking stats has been surprisingly easy for me because every time I am tempted I remind myself that looking does not change anything. Seeing the numbers does not make them go up. If I really cared about raising numbers, then I should be doing something about them rather than watching them. And I can always look back later and see what happened.
It also helps that I use google analytics, so I don’t have the stats right in my dashboard. If this is something you see as an ongoing issue to be conquered I would highly recommend using the external google analytics feature.
As for your main point… I have also been really struggling with Lent this year. I have lots of little things that are going well, but it does not feel as if I have “entered the spirit of Lent” or whatever. And then today I listened to a great talk on fasting in Lent from Creighton via iTunes U. Suddenly I found myself comparing my chosen penances to the former standard of fasting every day during Lent, and I have been really, really easy on myself.
There’s no doubt that we have Lent way easier than in past times. Then again, I think Lent is about more than penance. Oh well, I guess we just struggle and problem solve, and take life as it comes.
You’re really making me think…. I should really do the same fast you are doing. I’m a week behind already, but better late than never. I naturally love to write yet I feel I need to “keep up” with my blog even if I have nothing to say. And I’m always checking the stats to see what people are reading.
May God bless your heart as you honor him; I thank him for sending me your post today!