Lent is the forty day period where Catholics, and some Christian denominations, actively participate in the forty days where Jesus prayed and fasted in the desert.

I heard a cynic complain that all she ever hears about Lent is ‘sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice’. Why do people have to focus so much on denouncing pleasures, acting all gloomy and walking around with crosses on their heads? I suppose this is what the Ash Wednesday Mass feels like for someone unfamiliar with the Catholic faith.

Every year, I learn something new about Lent as I contemplate the mystery of this season and what spiritual fruits it might bring. Some years I feel as though nothing is happening at all, or I will be frustrated at myself and my own lack of discipline; some years I have stuck to my Lenten fast, such as giving up chocolate – almost resolutely. But no matter how well or how badly I’ve done, the breath of God always comes through – gently moving me to see what needs to change in my life – but always gently, never hastily, never condemningly.

This year I battled to narrow down my Lenten fast to ‘one thing’. So I started out with a few things – and that never works out well for me because I end up forgetting what I committed to at all. But mid-Lent, I realised something tangible could be done and that it wasn’t my annual Lenten no-chocolate tradition. It was switching off my data for Instagram. No more scrolling, no more posting for the remainder of Lent.

I wish I could testify to the grandeur of having done it the entire Lent, but alas. It’s been a good two weeks now – and in just these few days, I am so thankful for what has entered my life in the place of Instagram.

Our sacrifice during Lent, no matter how small, unites us to the Sacrifice of Christ. Jesus’ horrific suffering on the Cross is worth remembering for these forty days – how God in His Humanity walked the desert without food or drink so as to spiritually prepare for that great big Yes to dying on the cross. His Power – capable of turning water into wine, multiplying loaves and raising the dead – was instead submitted humbly to the hands of His executers.

Yet as much as Lent is about giving up something to draw closer to Jesus, it is also about preparing our hearts to receive. We give our lives a spring-clean to make room for the New: Jesus’ Resurrection and rebirth in our hearts.

In giving up Instagram, I have received more appreciation of the present moment, more time to do meaningful things – as opposed to one idle minute turning into twenty while I recover on the couch post-gym.

I really do enjoy Instagram – particularly writing captions and catching up on news of faraway friends. However, I have come to realise that it is all too easy to click that purple square while waiting in the queue, before work, before bed… and so it becomes a constant intruder into any moment in time. Unbridled, this lovely collection of photos quickly becomes a monster tempting me not to be present. My data then gets chowed, and I spend money, which could have gone to a worthier cause, topping up my data so my phone can fulfil its basic functions for the rest of the month. Sound familiar, or is it just me?

Denying Instagram has revealed to me how much of a knee-jerk reaction it is to scroll and post. This past weekend, my husband and I treated ourselves to a weekend away at a nearby beach town. The scene was beautiful: a balcony overlooking the vastly stretched ocean, moon hung in the sky, curtains gushing, framing the scene. How Instagram-worthy was this picture! #HolidayGoals – but no, I did not snap and post. Instead, I evaluated my motive: to boast; to validate my own experience? Why can’t I just be content to keep this shot in the unvisited, unfollowed archives of my phone? I am shocked at how social media has given my ego a free ticket to roam.

I will continue to use Instagram after Lent, but the past few weeks have made me more familiar with attitudes and habits of which I was fairly unconscious. You see, temptation, I have realized, is not always the overtly, gleamingly wicked option being dangled in front of me like a forbidden fruit. No, this would be all too easy to say no to, given I have the will power. Temptation at its best is that which we are not aware of.

C.S Lewis, who plays with the idea of temptation in The Screwtape Letters, writes: “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Similarly, St. Ignatius of Loyola speaks of the things that draw us away from God as the “Devil cloaked as an angel of light”.

At times, temptation is not the choice between the bad and the good; but the good and the best. Who would say that glaring at a bowl of carefully colour co-ordinated quinoa on your newsfeed is sinful? But maybe, surrounded by friends and family eager to converse with you, this is not the best option of the two.

God, may I have the humility to see where I am tempted so I can make room for the glory of your Resurrection this Easter. It’s never too late to start again.


About the Author

Caryn EdwardsTCC profile pic

My inspirations are café interiors, Pope Francis and listening to people’s stories. I have had too many hometowns, but currently I’m living with my husband in Cape Town where I teach Religious Education to high school girls. I ticked off speaking Spanish in Spain and getting married to my best amigo. Now I still hope to study theology, finally get a ticket to run the Two Oceans; and buy a second-hand sewing machine.