I love online shopping. I love sitting down at my computer and thinking about what it is that I want—a pan, a pair of shoes, a particular craft for my kids—and knowing that, with the power of the internet, I can find exactly what I’m looking for. I love reading reviews, comparing similar products, googling extra coupons, snagging an item at the last minute when Amazon tells me “Only Two Left!” I love that there is so much to choose from, and I love that I can do it all on my own computer and on my own time. I love thinking about my potential purchase for a few hours while I do something else, in order to come back and finally press that “Complete Your Purchase” button when I’ve made my decision. And I love when that package finally arrives at my door and I can tear it open and enjoy whatever I bought.
Are you uncomfortable yet? I have just professed my love for something that is usually innocuous on its own (shopping), but that for me, with the aid of technology, easily becomes addictive, expensive, time-consuming, and self-absorbed. Everybody has affinities like my love of online shopping. I am not a psychologist, so I don’t know exactly when something becomes an addiction that needs professional help. But I do know that we all have self-serving tendencies that take up space in our hearts that should be reserved for loving God and our neighbor.
Here are excerpts of some of the lectionary readings for Ash Wednesday, beautiful reminders to cleanse our hearts and let God reclaim them.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart…” Joel 2:12
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Every year for the past ten years I have given up online shopping for Lent because it has a peculiar hold on my heart. I don’t give it up for the rest of the year because online shopping is not inherently sinful. In fact, as a stay-at-home mom who wants to pull her hair out every time I have to stuff a toddler into a car seat in the middle of winter, online shopping is one of the main ways my family has what we need—be it groceries, gifts, or gadgets. Online shopping is a blessing that I need to be careful with, just like many of the things people give up for Lent, from coffee to alcohol to cell phones to Facebook.
What is it that holds your heart a little too tightly?