It can be rather en vogue to swear off things like social media and the like during certain seasons of life. Particularly for us Christians, we tend to do this during times like Lent, foregoing the pleasures of chocolate, meat, Netflix, Twitter, or alcohol. For Jesus, of course. The discipline of fasting is intended to help us better identify with the life of Jesus, while also exposing to us our real hunger for God.
Advent, which is far less frequently observed and all-too-often consumed by the holiday hustle and bustle, is meant to be a similar time of identification and preparation. While arguments abound as to whether it is truly a penitential season, it is a time to, amongst other things, prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. And one way to do this is to enter into what Fleming Rutledge names, “the Time Between.” Advent is the time between ages, between the world as it has been and the world as it shall be. Indeed, this is the time that we all live in, yet rarely take time to be present to.
Advent is a time to be fully in the present and to face the world as it is, in all its darkness and despair. “Deck the halls with tears and sorrow. Tis’ the season to fear tomorrow.” Isn’t that how the song goes?
But seriously, I am learning that I have a tough time simply taking time to see the world as it is. I have to quickly interpret it, parse it, spin it toward some redemptive, good, and didactic end. I need to get angry at it and shoot off a quick tweet. I need to speak out on every issue I see to offer my take. I am not taking time to simply see the world as it is. I am not pausing to feel the world as it is. Instead, I am often reacting to the world as I am.
So, as a way to take stock of this, I am choosing to not post to social media for the duration of Lent and Christmastide (apart from the occasional family thing or work-related post). I won’t be engaging on threads or subtweeting weirdly obscure denominational issues. I won’t be offering takes or the like. I need to take time to simply read and take in what I read. I need to sit with it. Stay angry about it if it angers me, rather than placating with a post. I need to actually pray about it.
But I will be reading. I will not shy away from the world. I will lean in, but will do so with a sort of engaged silence, a watchful and curious gaze. I will not withdraw, but I will suspend adding my quick voice to the fray. Some may criticize this as a sort of privilege, and it certainly is, to be sure. And it is not for everyone to do, nor would I prescribe it.
I’m hoping this will help me to learn how to better see the world and feel the world as it is. I’m hoping it will better connect me to the God who is very much present and working in this world. And I’m hoping it will help me get in better touch with my own feelings and emotions around these things.
I share this not as some spiritually performative act or to immediately condemn those who are heavily engaged on social media (I’ve learned a lot from others on these platforms and am truly grateful). I share in order to be explanatory to those who are used to seeing me post more regularly. I also share as a means of accountability in my practice.
May we all come to better see and feel the world as it truly is. Perhaps as we sing the words from O Holy Night on Christmas Eve, we may better appreciate the miracle it is for a “weary world” to rejoice.