By the Rev. Cara Scriven | Tacoma District Superintendent
Over the last year, I noticed that I was mindlessly checking Facebook when I had any unstructured moment. I often found myself lost in my newsfeed for 20-30 minutes without realizing it. When I did, my children would have to call my name several times before I would even hear them. Because of this, I considered quitting Facebook altogether. Yet, there are some elements that I love about Facebook that I didn’t want to lose. So instead of quitting, I decided to fast from Facebook throughout the season of Advent.
The first week was hard as I found myself unconsciously opening Facebook on multiple occasions. It was also painfully obvious that I was not on Facebook as my husband would send family pictures to my phone and interesting articles to my email, all of which I would have organically encountered on Facebook. A friend was surprised when I didn’t know details about a recent event which caused me to struggle with feeling like I wasn’t “in the know” anymore.
However, once the first week was over, I discovered that I gained much more than I lost. I suddenly was more productive at work which led to having more time to read the book I’ve had since Christmas 2014, and to do other things I enjoy. I also found that I was more content with my life as I was no longer jealous of my Facebook friend’s luxurious vacations, new cars, new jobs, or the latest accomplishments of their prodigious children. I found more time to smile at the way my children played together, notice the growth that was happening in their lives, listen to their latest insights about the world, and enjoy daily walks with my best friend.
As my time of fasting came to a close, I began to evaluate my time away. In doing so, I was reminded of a scene from a British television show, Monarch of the Glen. To describe it concisely, the show is about an old family estate trying to save itself from bankruptcy, a familiar but more comedic variation of the popular show, Downton Abbey. One episode centered around an accusation that a long time staff member, Golly, was stealing from the estate. Despite being innocent, Golly is put in jail for several days. Two of the older characters decide to stand is solidarity with him and find themselves in jail as well. After an attempt to escape fails, Golly reveals that the doors to their cells were never locked and that they can leave whenever they want.
My husband shared that a similar thing occurred during an episode of a decidedly different show, The Walking Dead. Morgan, a character who had experienced great loss, was put in a cell after attempting to assault a man named Eastman. Morgan also comes to discover that his cell is unlocked but, in a pivotal scene, refuses to acknowledge it as he isn’t ready yet to embrace the responsibilities that come with freedom.
Throughout our lives, we find ourselves in similar positions. We are imprisoned by one thing or another—addiction, family situation, job, habits, perspectives on life or politics, etc. Once we discover that we are imprisoned, we assume that we are locked into these situations or beliefs. Yet, we are often surprised to discover that the door to our cell is unlocked leaving us to decide if we prefer our prison or what might be beyond the walls.
Freedom and liberation are never found in prison. The Hebrews had to leave captivity in Egypt to discover the liberation that God was offering to them. Moses, their leader, had to leave the prison of who he thought he was, in order to lead them into that freedom. In the same way, we have to be willing to leave behind our cells in order to experience the abundant life that God has to offer us. Each person’s cell will be different but the journey to liberation is similar enough that we can help each other along the way. There will be twitching and moments where we unconsciously return to the cell, but in the end, the freedom we will experience will be well worth the struggle.
I am not sure if I will return to the world of Facebook as I am reluctant to let go of my new found freedom. But if I do, I will be very mindful that the door is open and that there is much to experience in the world beyond hashtags and filtered photos.
In this new year, may you also discover that the cell door is already unlocked. Let us avoid the temptation of false idols and filtered lives, and find ourselves ready to assume the responsibility of freedom that God calls us to, with new life and endless possibility as our rewards.