Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Giving Up

The 40 days before Easter Sunday are known as Lent, where Christians give something up sacrificially to prepare their hearts and minds for Easter. The objective is to focus all our attention on God instead of whatever object or person we give up. It requires discipline, denying desires, and clinging to Jesus for strength.

My current church does not practice Lent, but I want to keep it up. For most situations in my life, I can’t see the big picture and I want instant gratification. Denying myself is a very difficult task for me. During Lent, I know that the sacrifice is worth it. I know that I need that desperate grasp on Jesus’ hand and begging Him to help me through the day. Food is a constant addiction and in the past, I have given up sweets (candy, dessert, soda, ice cream, etc).

This year, I have so many goals that I felt the need to give up something that was occupying way too much time. TV.

Goal #1 Organize and declutter my house.
- It is already March and I haven’t finished 1 room. Not even a whole closet. I’ve adjusted my goal from 1 room a week to 1 room a month and still no progress.

Goal #2 Exercise.
- Whether it’s going to the gym, running in the neighborhood, or playing the Wii (I am not counting exercising with the Wii as watching TV – at least I’m working towards a goal!)

Goal #3 Lose weight.
- I mindlessly eat in front of the TV. It doesn’t matter if I just ate dinner, I will stuff my face with just about anything. If I don’t have junk food, I will concoct something.

Goal #4 Get out of debt.
- Watching TV doesn’t cost exactly (yes, I have a bill each month, but I’m not giving this up forever!), but I could be doing something better with my time to find ways to save money, be productive, or sell stuff.

Goal #5 Read at least 3 books to deepen my devotional life.
- Obviously TV impairs this one the most. I can’t multi-task on simple things, let alone reading and TV.

The night before Lent started, in true Fat Tuesday tradition, I frantically watched as many episodes of Once Upon a Time, Grey’s Anatomy and Parenthood as I could so my beloved DVR wouldn’t be overloaded at the end of 40 days. I knew there was a high chance that my limit of 5 episodes per show would end up overwriting itself by Easter. Only a few select shows earn the right to record unlimited episodes in my DVR.

Day 1 (Wednesday) was a success.

Day 2 (Thursday), I realized that Once Upon a Time (absence makes me obsess about my favorite shows and wonder what they are doing without me – even on nights they aren’t on), I heard that Sunday’s were celebration days to mimic Easter. On those celebration days, one can partake on whatever they were giving up. I researched it online and found this to be true! Sunday, hurry up!

Day 4 (Saturday), I had friends over for our monthly dinner and I wanted to show them “The Revolution”. We are all trying to lose weight and get our life organized and finances in order so I had to give them a glimpse of the show! I knew it was breaking Lent, but we had already planned this event before I decided to give up TV. Plus, it was the day before my celebration day!

Day 5 (Sunday), I went to church and then succeeded in having the TV on most of the day. Since I splurged the day before, my intent was to turn the TV off at 7 p.m. This did not happen. I was literally Up All Night watching “Suburgatory” and “New Girl”.

Days 6-11 (Monday – Saturday), I managed to stay super busy this week. With my leg healed, I can now join the running club! Wednesday was Weight Watchers meeting and Thursday small group. My plans fell through on Friday night and I SO wanted to watch TV. I didn’t cave in, and unfortunately I didn’t muster up the gumption to actually organize. Instead, I researched cars online.

Day 12 (Sunday), the craziest thing happened. This was my celebration day, the day I could partake in the forbidden activity. I turned the TV on and then realized I needed to call my mom. Afterwards, I tried to watch TV again, but it was bothering me so much that I finally had to turn the TV off!!! I think I watched one show all day! That’s when it occurred to me, when I give something up and focus on Jesus, that “thing” becomes unnecessary.

In fact, the show I watched just confirmed GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. No wonder I think that happiness is a new car, being in a relationship, or having straight hair. All those messages are pounded into my head during one show! No wonder I have insecurities. No wonder I am scared to speak up about my faith. Christians are continually portrayed as weak, weird, fanatical, or pushy. None of them ever point out our “good” qualities like love, compassion, forgiveness, gentleness, mercy, kindness, consideration, faith, and sincerity. I realized that I am happier without TV!

"The Biggest Loser" is a somewhat wholesome show with very little profanity (at least it’s beeped out) or nudity. Yet, the past few weeks, the show was so full of tension, judgmental contestants, and petty fighting. I would end up feeling upset after the show was over! Who needs to feel stressed from watching TV?

Day 14 (Tuesday), I was doing my budget for the millionth time this year. I am about to pay off a big chunk of debt (yay!) so I was hypothetically reallocating my money. What I found shocked me. If I reallocated the way I wanted to, I wouldn’t have any money left over for savings or a car payment.

Here is the dilemma, I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and I am still on Baby Step 2 – Get out of debt. Yet, I want to start giving like no one else (Baby Step 7). With de-cluttering my house and getting rid of unnecessary stuff I realize how little I actually NEED. With participating in my church’s Feed My Starving Children ( event, I was reminded about how there are people in the world with nothing. Here I am carrying around 30 extra pounds of weight from my obsession with food and there are people that haven’t eaten all week. I can’t find wall decor I want for my cozy house while I pass by homeless people in DC every day. I am blessed beyond measure and here I am squeezing my budget to afford my “reasonably-priced dream car” (Ford Fusion Hybrid). Do I NEED a new car? Yes. Mine is 9 years old and hanging on by a thread. Do I need THAT car? No. Do I have a budget for a car payment? Yes. Can I live with another “budget car”? Absolutely!

One of the many paradoxes (Is that a word? Regardless, I’m using it.) I’m learning is that the more I give, the less I need. I want God to use me. I am so thankful that I have the finances to support His work to minister to those in need.

I don’t want to go back to how I was before. Watching TV every single night and being consumed by meaningless shows. Unsatisfied with my life because it doesn’t measure up to how the world views success.

During this 40 day deprivation, I found real joy in giving!

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