I’m taking a lot of breaks, lately. I never really planned on any of them.
My first un-planned break happened this past February. I had been noticing that my husband was so much more aware and so much less distracted lately. He thought about things more carefully than usual. If you’ve met him, you might think that that is his usual self, but when you live with a man for enough time, you notice even the tiniest changes to detail. He finally disclosed his secret: he had uninstalled Facebook from his phone (he doesn’t have Instagram). There was no pomp and circumstance to it, no fanfare. He didn’t expect me to be shocked. He didn’t even tell me he was doing it, so obviously, he wouldn't have publicly announced it. (For the record, I wasn't shocked. He's fairly private and he doesn't feel the need to be seen). There was no inciting event that prompted him to make this decision---he just did it for no reason other than wanting to be more present for me, for Sophia, and for basketball season.
I admired his example, so I followed suit. I uninstalled Facebook and maintained a very limited presence on Instagram (just to see if my church had posted any announcements I needed to be privy of). Coincidentally, this hiatus bled through the Lenten Season. Ironically, I received more judgmental looks when I explained my hiatus was “just because” than when I said it was for Lent. Go figure.
During this break from social media, we took a family trip to Vegas to see the Bellagio Water Show and the Mirage Fire Show, and then flew to Minnesota to visit my in-laws and the rest of my husband's extended family. While we were there, we got to drive a pick-up truck over a frozen lake in -9F weather, we spent time in a fish house ice fishing, we snowmobiled across the vast Chadderdon compound, visited the pig barn, took part in a local fish-fry, went snow sledding, built a snowman, and had our very first Valentine’s Day dinner as a married couple. And you know what? It wasn't the end of the world that we DIDN'T post any of these things as they happened. It didn't kill us one bit. Nope. You know what - sometimes, none of you need to know what I’m doing or where I am at any given moment. I’ll keep those things to myself until I decide to share it. Like, now….
So, here’s what I noticed during my time away from Facebook: When people spoke to me, I looked them in the eye. In a group setting with friends, I gave whoever was speaking full attention to make them feel like they were being heard and respected. I needed to replace the hours upon collective hours of blankly and absentmindedly scrolling through my Facebook feed with something more productive. In tandem, I had to find a way to refuel my emotions and thoughts toward positivity---the political posts of some either left me angry or angrier, and the over-sharing of some I must admit, fostered a critical spirit within me that I am not proud of. Needless to say, I was filling my mind and my heart with things I should have been filtering out; things, that on the surface, seems fairly harmless. I had to ask myself hard questions: am I replacing time I ought to be spending with my family or friends with Facebook? I used to place my worth and value on a number on a body-fat percentage scale----have I traded that need instead for the number of "likes" I get on a post? What am I really getting out of "being seen"?
Additionally, I noticed I started to use my brain more. I read 4 large books in 30 days, and I wrote every day in my journal, putting my thoughts and feelings on to paper.
Here’s what I read during my time off:
1. Affluence without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushman, by James Suzman. Suzman is an anthropologist on the Bushmen of Southern Africa. The Bushmen are the oldest hunter-and-gathering community in the world who made a good living by working on as much as they needed to so they can live in harmony with their harsh desert environment. It is a community that is the complete antithesis to modern American culture that relies on their own autonomy rather than relying on community, who value what they can keep rather than what they can give away, and who have abundance without the affluence to match. The book is a sobering reminder of what life could look like if individuals looked beyond themselves.
2.Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy.
Question: What's better than a book?
Answer: a book about books.
In every chapter of this book, Handy takes you on an adventure with children's classics like "Goodnight, Moon", "Where The Wild Things Are", The Chronicles of Narnia, amongst a host of others, explaining their history and their authors. C.S Lewis said it best when he said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia as a child---and as an adult, I find meaning, purpose and God within it. I enjoyed The Lord of The Rings Trilogy when I first discovered it in the 6th grade because of the fantasy, fairies, and elves---as an adult, it reminds me that the unlikeliest people are capable of doing the greatest things, that loyalty is a lost art, and that what seems foolish do confound the wise. I remember reading the introduction of this book and crying tears of joy for finding such a gem, and simultaneously crying tears of nostalgia for the childhood simplicity I miss so much. I get this feeling when I revisit some of my childhood books that I now read to Sophia.
3.Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann.
I love myself a good mystery, and the most shocking and unpredictable mysteries are always the ones that are “true crime.” When an Osage Indian family in Southern Alabama was specifically targeted and were starting to suspiciously die off one by one, the FBI intervenes to stop the horror. This is a fast-paced, breathtaking, real-story account of what greed can do to the human heart to enable it to do whatever it takes to get what it wants. This book was chilling.
4.The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi, by Rob Gallaty.
Westerners often forget that Jesus was a Jewish man living in a Jewish land, observing Jewish customs, and investing his life into Jewish men and women in the communities all around him. We read the Bible with such heavy western cultural influences that it is no wonder we interpret its words incorrectly, consequently leading to self-interpretation that lead to poor doctrine, and poor theology. Cultural context is important, and mastering basic reading comprehension (that leads to really good interpretation and application) can help with that. Gallaty uncovers the Hebraic culture, customs, and nuances that westerners probably have never heard or learned about. He also champions what I have been feeling, saying, and proclaiming for so long: that you cannot truly appreciate the New Testament without understanding the Old. Gallaty highlights Jewish idioms and traditions and takes the reader on a journey to rediscover a “forgotten Jesus” from a sound, biblical point of view, which consequently (as it did for me) not only deepened my relationship with God, but also equipped me better to discern good theology from bad, and sound doctrine from heresy. You need this book on your bookshelf.
…speaking of discernment....
Taking breaks from mind-sapping engines made me more aware of a trend in the American Church that keeps growing by the second. It is the trend of experientialism and the death of doctrinal clarity. It's the trend of seeking emotions and encounters to the exclusion of everything else. Doctrine, then, is so shallow that some people can't discern anymore what's heretical because there's a little bit of truth sprinkled in with all the muck. The time of 2 Timothy 4:2-4 is prevalent: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires..."
This really needs to be another post for another time, so I'll leave it at that. I've always believed the trend existed. This isn't anything new. The Apostle Paul had to deal with it himself, and that was ages ago.
Ok, I'm off my soapbox now.
And finally, my latest “break” happened just the other day. I had been in a volunteer position for the past 8 years with a community that I have been a part of for the past 18 years (yes, you read that right. Eight years, and eighteen years). I devoted a lot of time, energy, and heart into volunteering and decided that it was time to take a brief hiatus. I had been struggling with a few things within the organization and the changes I saw evolved in a way that didn't line-up with some of the values I held. It was very difficult to do because so much of my identity as a human, as a woman, and as a Christian encompassed what I had been doing for 8 years. I cried about it for the first time last night, even though I had been struggling with these things for nearly 8 months.
But obedience is never easy. If it were, we’d all be obedient to God’s promptings all the time, wouldn’t we? My head (along with my gut) and my heart (emotions) were at war, and I decided to make a smart decision about it, rather than an emotional one. And though I am sad and disappointed, I ironically feel a lot of peace about it.
So, where does all of this leave me now?
Well, after some time off of Facebook, I actually didn't miss it much. I still don't. Maybe you've noticed I've been off of it. Maybe you haven't. It doesn't matter to me --- I still use it to drive this blog. But the biggest change I've noticed is that it doesn't control me now. I control it. I notice I don't revert to my phone when I'm bored. In long lines or if I'm early to appointments, I read a book. I don't pick up my phone and scroll when someone is talking---it's just rude---sorry, you can't convince me otherwise. I'm practicing to be more present and more intentional, and all the other cliche stuff you read on sappy blogs, so I'll spare you some eye-rolling.
I'm going to read more, write more, study more, learn more, love more, hug more---fill in the blank. And yes, fine, ok---you don't have to twist my arm: I'll blog more.