Reflections in this Series:

  1. Into the Desert

Today marks the end of the first week of Exodus 90 for seven men in our small fraternity. To ask whether it was easy or difficult is perhaps the incorrect question to ask. Instead, we’d like examine our journey in a more nuanced way via these reflections, exploring the blessings and triumphs alongside the challenges that this ascetic challenge brings. All points in this reflection are taken from conversations as a group in our weekly meetups and with discussions with individual men, in order to bring you a more complete set of takeaways.

Benefits

More time for things that matter

The biggest change most of the men in the fraternity have noticed – to no one’s surprise – is an increase of free time. It is not that there has been a great increase for any of us, as we are replacing some of our poor habits with good uses of time (such as prayer or physical exercise). Nevertheless, our daily schedules are now challenging us to be more cognizant of what activities we partake in. Suddenly, voids can no longer be filled with just a “quick” check of social media or by watching Netflix for half-an-hour. This is a blessing, if I can speak for everyone else, as I am now essentially forced to do things that I’ve always put off – whether it’s reading that book sitting on my shelf, dedicating more time to Latin, or the like. We all have more time to do things that matter to us and give us great physical, mental and spiritual benefit.

More recognition of areas of struggle

One of the men in our fraternity pointed out that it was a bit disheartening to realize how hard some of this was, but was excited that he was able to recognize these often hidden areas of struggle. This self-knowledge is critical in any endeavor of self-improvement. We need to know where we are now in order to better diagnose our problems and chart a course to where we are called to be in the future.

Accountability

On a personal note, I’ve struggled greatly with prayer over my life. So undertaking a challenge to spend more time in prayer than I have in a while with the added benefits of accountability has enabled me to commit much more fully to it. Now, let’s be honest – it’s been one week of a nearly 13 week challenge. I have a long way to go to really solidify this change. What that necessitates is synergistic action on my part, with God, with my anchor, and with the rest of the men in the fraternity. It’s still a blessing to make it this far with improved consistency though.

Challenges

Giving up technology

I don’t think any of the men on our team knew how much we were addicted to technology, specifically our smart phones. All of the men I have spoken to, myself included, have struggled deeply in this area. Justifying our use, returning to habitual use in spite of our blocks and other changes made to counter that… Technology is pervasive and no true man wants to be a slave to a rectangle in his pocket, let alone any of the technology on it. Thankfully, we are now more cognizant of our shortcomings in this area and are able to better address them in week two.

What I’m doing to remedy this is:

  • Using the Forest app to “gamify” my time away from my phone.
  • Dedicating time on my schedule to quiet periods. This is in order to realize the benefits silence, both auditory and of a more interior variety. This is also designed to help me break away from my “need” to listen to music while on my phone.
  • Keeping a book handy for times of boredom and giving myself the “OK” to read just a page or paragraph if that is what it takes to overcome periodic acedia.

The need to be “in-the-know”

There will never be a perfect season in our lives to begin ascetic challenges, but this week was particularly hard due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, national turmoil, and violent protests which hit close to home for many of our teammates. For many of us, there was a constant tug to check the news “just for a minute.” Many of us realized how much time these singular minutes added up to. Furthermore, there is a real danger which the gents who started Exodus 90 point out about technology cheats – it’s very hard to close that door once it’s open. Anytime I would get caught up in the news or even more trivial things that my brain demands answers for, any satisfaction of the urge to investigate meant that the rest of the day I was off kilter and my resistance to my little black rectangle was a little less pronounced.

All in all – these two challenges merely demonstrate our over-reliance on technology and illustrate the tip of the iceberg of the harmful psychological and spiritual effects that overuse has on all people.

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