One of the latest fitness crazes that seems to be rising in popularity is the use of Fitbits. These bracelets are worn by young and old who desire to monitor more closely their lifestyle and personal habits related to health and wellness. While different models track different practices, three areas of concern seem to be most prominent: Daily steps you’ve taken…Calories you’ve burned….and even how you’re sleeping.
Throughout the day a person wearing a Fitbit can check their progress in these areas and more. The truly disciplined have daily targets and goals and plan their activities accordingly. While I don’t own such a device myself, I admire the discipline and perseverance of those who do.
As we begin the sacred season of Lent today, I wonder if we might challenge ourselves to have a spiritual Fitbit practice for the next 40 days leading to Easter. Perhaps in addition to the ashes many will receive today, we could wear or carry some tangible and physical reminder of the traditional spiritual disciplines of this holy time: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving (charity or service to those in need). At the Ash Wednesday services today at noon and 10 p.m. in the chapel we will hand out our traditional red wristbands for people to wear. We’ll have more on hand at the Center for Spiritual Life as well. But any wristband or cross or other kind of accessory can be used as long as it helps remind us on a daily basis to be more spiritually mindful and disciplined.
As a regular Fitbit may track our sleeping patterns, a spiritual Fitbit can track our times of prayer, quiet contemplation, and resting in God. When we glance at the wristband throughout the day we can quiet ourselves, take a deep and cleansing breath, and simply be reflective and grateful. God loves our attention and our intention. We don’t need to have fancy words or elaborate rituals. Our prayerful presence is more than enough.
As the commercial Fitbit tracks our calorie intake, usually motivating us to eat less, a spiritual Fitbit can track our fasting. Each of us could benefit from downsizing in one or more areas of our lives. We might need to cut down on certain foods that aren’t good for us. We may want to decrease our intake of alcohol. We may want to be more mindful of how our food is produced and eat more locally. We may consume less and limit our purchases. Money saved can then be given to individuals and organizations that serve those in need. If we are multi-tasking and over stressed, we may choose to limit our commitments so that we are more focused and centered. Our wristband can be a visible reminder that “less is often more.”
And finally as a typical Fitbit tracks one’s steps throughout the day, a spiritual Fitbit can help monitor our actions. In Lent the practice of almsgiving often involves giving time, talent, and treasure in order to help those around us. Opportunities to become more active in charity abound. Community organizations and non-profits are always in need of financial support as well as volunteers to assist them in their mission. Closer to home, one need only look around those with whom we share daily life to find ways to serve. A classmate struggling with an assignment, a colleague stressed from dealing with loss or illness, a friend with a broken heart…. All we need to do is open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts and a need will present itself begging for our personal response.
I encourage each of us to find our own spiritual Fitbits to serve as reminders in these coming six weeks. Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving: Rest in God, Less is More, Care for Others. Set your own goals that are reasonable and attainable and trust the Spirit to coach and motivate you along the way. Ready, Set, Go!!