By Graham Glover –
For the last several weeks I’ve been living in the backwoods of the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Training alongside my Soldiers, I was “disconnected” from the rest of the world during this time, with no access to my phone or personal laptop. That meant: no calls, texts, email, Facebook, or Twitter, no ESPN, Fox News, Huffington Post, or GatorSports.com. I had virtually no idea what news stories were breaking, which sports teams were winning, and perhaps most importantly, no ability to engage you, the readers of The Jagged Word!
The inability to use my phone or be connected to events outside the training lanes of JRTC was both frustrating and freeing. Frustrating, because like most of you, I’m constantly connected to a screen: my phone, a computer, or a television. I may not be a millennial, but it was still a shock to the system when these things were forbidden during our training exercise. Freeing, because I wasn’t burdened with constantly returning calls, texts, or emails, or following the 24/7 news cycle, and most importantly, because it allowed me to more fully immerse myself into my vocation, serving and ministering to Soldiers.
In some respects, the experiences of my last few weeks, mirror what the Church does during the season of Lent. As we fast, pray, and give, we deprive ourselves of that which consumes us – that which we enjoy, and in turn, attempt to devote ourselves more fully to our Lord and the faith He has given us. This can be both frustrating and freeing. But when Lent is over, when the great Easter feast is upon us, most of us go back to the practices that we gave up during the Lenten season. I did this within moments of the Change of Mission order being issued at JRTC, joining my fellow Soldiers in turning on our phones, to the incessant sound of texts, emails, voicemails, and news updates.
Does this mean such sacrifices are in vain? That giving things up for short periods of time are a waste of time? Not at all. For they teach us discipline. They help remind us about what our true focus is and where it should be placed. They point us to the heart of what we have been called to do and who we are called to be. In and of themselves, these sacrifices don’t make us better. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have value. To deprive ourselves of the things of this world, even if for a short period, can be a good thing. Taking on additional disciplines can be as well.
So join me today, on this Ash Wednesday, as we begin our Lenten sacrifice. Join me in fasting. Join me in prayer. Join me in almsgiving. Join me not because these things make us a Christian, not because they will save us or make us more righteous. Join me because these spiritual disciplines can help redirect our focus – help reshape our priorities. Join me because this is what the Church teaches us to do. Join me as we look not to the things of this world, but only the Cross of Christ.
Join me, with or without your phone, and on Easter, join me in celebrating the work of Christ, no matter how well we did with our own sacrifices.