"And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.” (Matthew 4:2)
I suspect some of you will think my title for this is a typographical error and that I really meant to write, “A Fast Internet”. No! The title “An Internet Fast” IS correct. When we speak of “fasting” from a Biblical perspective, we usually speak of fasting from foods, and perhaps from certain drinks; but I’m treating “fasting” in a broader context here. It’s ironic I’m writing about this on an on-line blog, but I’ve begun doing some “fasting from the internet” and that’s what I’m writing about today.
Prior to going on my one month of sabbatical time (for total rest) I was struggling with a lot of issues, and people were “speaking into my life” about some things. One of the big ones was being confronted with the accusation that I was “addicted to talk radio” and “addicted to being on-line”. I’m still not sure that I was “addicted” to talk radio, but I confess that YES I probably was listening to too much talk radio. As far as being on-line, YES I was absolutely addicted to that.
I first went on-line in April of 1996; very reluctantly, I might add. In those days, I did have an office computer and a home computer, but neither one had modems. They were fine for word processing, etc. I saw absolutely no need to be on-line. In the spring of 1996, I accepted a voluntary position in the local Assemblies of God organization that required I have an on-line account on which I would receive important communications and forward those on to other AG ministers. I opened that AOL account with a lot of reservations, wondering why I’d POSSIBLY want to be on-line! In May of 1998, my wife and kids got AOL accounts and screen names, and we all went on-line at home. Originally, I was in an AOL “pay by the minute” plan. When AOL later offered unlimited on-line service for a flat monthly fee, my wife jumped on that opportunity. I didn’t. I liked that fact that paying by the minute disciplined me to only be on-line about 20 minutes a day. In fact, I VERY seldom spent more than 20 minutes a day on-line, and that’s the way it was until late 2005. In late 2005, I began seriously contemplating starting a blog, and I also was getting frustrated that I really didn’t have time to do on-line searches, check out websites, etc. Thus, I switched my payment arrangement to “unlimited”.
Switching to unlimited frankly WAS bad for me. Prior to that, I’d typically check my e-mail once or twice a day for about ten minutes at a whack. Now, I was checking my e-mail about fifteen times a day. And, I was doing all sorts of on-line searches, checking out all sorts of websites (No, NOT porn, thank God!), writing and sending mass e-mails, etc. It’s a good thing I never had a Blackberry, and in fact, I DON’T have a laptop; I have use either a desktop computer at the church or a desktop computer at home. Even so, YES, I was absolutely addicted to being on-line. If I sent somebody an e-mail and they didn’t respond to it within a hour, I was actually very annoyed with the person, and I’d think: “What’s the matter with so-and-so; doesn’t he even CHECK his e-mail?!”
When I left on that one month to Missouri, I was admonished to stay off the computer for the month that I was gone. Well, I did “cheat” a little bit at the public library. I was on-line for a total of just under three hours over a one month period; AND for two weeks I was TOTALLY off-line, which was a big deal for me! It was pretty much “cold turkey”! Yes, in a way it was very difficult. But, in another way, it was very liberating. I also listened to a total of about one hour of secular talk radio the whole time I was gone.
Upon returning, I HAVE been afraid of going back to my old habits. For this reason, I’m learning to put up “boundaries” in my life. A friend of mine named “Jim” who is a professional counselor has told me many times that I need to establish firm boundaries in my life, and I’ve ignored his advice. I wanted people to like me, and I didn’t want them to feel like I was putting up walls against them. But now I’m learning to make boundaries in my life and I’m learning the importance of “fasting” from things which have had a major hold on my time, energy, and thoughts. (Of course, people can phone me anytime for emergencies and for important church business which just can’t wait, but I’m starting to learn that a lot of things CAN wait.)
I still listen to secular talk radio, but a LOT less of it. I think I’ve only listened to maybe four hours of secular talk radio in the past ten days, which for me is not much at all. I’ve also made a MAJOR shift about the internet. Except in cases of absolute emergencies (such as having to send an e-mail saying church is canceled due to a snowstorm or something like that) I’m not going to be on-line at all on Saturdays, Sundays, or Tuesdays. Sunday is the Lord’s Day. I want to treat that as such. Saturday is the day I’m focusing on getting ready for Sunday,. and for me, part of that is going to be staying off-line. Finally, Tuesday is my day off. I had gotten into the habit of going into the church office for one hour on my day off; then it became two hours; then it became three hours. And, I was on-line pretty much most of the day on Tuesdays. I’ve decided it’s going to be a TRUE day off, away from church business (except for emergencies) and away from the computer.
I certainly hope nobody thinks I’m being unfriendly or unreasonable by making these changes, but I’m already finding they’re very good for me! For those of you who are addicted to being on-line as I was, maybe you need an internet fast!