Culture: Fracturedness and Our Need for Lent

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I enjoy reading both online and offline. Subjects include advertising, small groups, Abraham Lincoln, fairy tales, "cool," Old Testament history, augmented reality, furniture restoration and the contrasting perspectives of the NY Times and Fox News on President Obama. Can you say "variety"? In the past week, however, I’ve encountered a concentration of articles on busyness. Is it because people are catching cabin fever and need some vacation? (The snow hasn't let me see any more than the driver’s side window of my neighbor’s car in two whole weeks. I’m beginning to think there's an igloo with a glass peephole across the street.) Or is it because Lent started on Wednesday and my ears are attuned to it? Either way, I welcome the concentration. We all know how fast our culture moves. If we aren’t keeping up with work demands, we’re keeping up with the Joneses. If it isn’t our kids’ extra-curricular schedules, it’s the digitally social and informational equivalent of Niagara Falls (something we’re either going to drown in or escape by the skin of our teeth).


One of my favorite quotes on this issue comes from Ann Hagmann in a great little book called Climbing the Sycamore Tree: A Study on Choice and Simplicity. She writes, “Simplicity is an act of the will to reduce the fracturedness of life by centering life around a singleness of purpose.” Sounds like Matthew 6:33 to me. Lent is a perfect time for this sort of reduction. Alissa Wilkinson, editor of IAM’s The Curator, wrote an encouraging post on Lent at the CCO’s Living Jubilee last week where she reminds us:

The idea behind the Lenten fast is to remove something good that nonetheless can take Christ’s place in our life as the true source of comfort and joy. We add it back on celebratory days (the Sabbath, and then Easter), with the goal of finding comfort in Christ while being able to put his blessings in the proper place in our lives.

Whether we remove a good or a bad – chocolate or chasing the Joneses – we have to do it. And Lent provides both the space and communal support we need.

Multi-tasking and Disordered Priorities

My attention is so fractured (e.g. reading list above) that I’ve come to believe I can merely develop the skill of multi-tasking to deal with it. High Calling Blogger Charity Singleton reflected on this recently, sharing her own failures as a self-proclaimed multi-tasker and questioning whether she’s really succeeding. According to research she cited, the mind simply can’t multi-task. Or if it can, it “impairs one’s cognitive ability similarly to drunkenness.” My wife can attest to this in me! Milk in the cabinet, cereal in the fridge, forgotten conversations only minutes after having them…. These are harmless examples, of course, but they indicate a preoccupation that inhibits normal functioning. They say, “Sam, you’re not fully present; not paying attention; not living simply.” And what about disordered priorities? Should children be in three sports? Do you need five social media outlets? Why am I waking up tired every morning? I want a whole six weeks of that feeling you get when an anxiety-producing appointment is unexpectedly canceled. I can’t foresee such a Lenten season this year. I have too many idols and I’m still convinced that honing my “multi-tasking” skills can create adequate margins. Quitting TV will have to do for now. It will take a couple of weeks to get used to it, but I’ll get used to it. I just need to make sure I don't fill my new free time with something else.

  1. How are/aren’t you observing Lent this year?
  2. What typically keeps you from reducing the fracturedness of life?
  3. Rhetorical question: What one thing would you fast from during Lent that you know you couldn't fast from?

Post written by Sam Van Eman of New Breed of Advertisers. Photo in the Public Domain.

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