I stared in disbelief. My laptop had frozen. For the third time in 20 minutes.
I threw my head back and looked heavenward, hoping my desperate gaze would summon a tech-savvy angel. After a silent prayer, I sighed, got up, and trudged across the hall to find our company’s network administrator, Adam.
Without turning away from his panel of computer monitors, he asked, “Your laptop froze again, right?”
I nodded mutely. My visits were becoming routine.
He clicked rapidly through several screens, grabbed his soda, and rose. “Let’s take a look.”
Moments later, he was seated at my desk, rapidly scanning my laptop’s settings. I stood behind him, fidgeting.
“What exactly causes this problem?” I groused. It was the first week of Lent, and having renounced chocolate, I was irritable.
“Several things, actually,” Adam replied between mouse clicks. “First, you’ve got a lot of programs loading on startup that you don’t need. So I’ve disabled them.”
“I didn’t know about those,” I snapped.
Adam chuckled. “Gave up chocolate for Lent, I see. Don’t worry; those programs were loading automatically.” He typed a few commands and continued. “You’ve also got way too many files saved to the hard drive; they’re taking up unnecessary space. I’m moving them over to our server.”
“But I don’t want anyone to accidentally delete them,” I protested.
“They’re safer there; the server is backed up every night.” He slurped the last of his soda and stood. “I’ve just started a system-wide scan for infection. You can work, but it’s going to be slow until the scan finishes. Keep calm and don’t think about chocolate,” he added, grinning as he left.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, plopping into my chair and reaching for my mouse. Hundreds of filenames flashed across the screen as the anti-virus software checked for threats. I tried to resume my work, but drummed my fingers on the desk and sighed.
Neither my laptop nor my Lent seemed to be faring well. At least I had a network administrator to fix my computer, but how could I reclaim a Lent that already seemed to be off course?
A few relationships were damaged; reconciliation appeared unlikely anytime soon. I was distracted whenever I tried to recite my daily rosary or read my Bible. And my one great “sacrifice,” giving up chocolate, felt as hollow as a candy Easter bunny. I glanced upward again, wishing that an angel, a spiritual network administrator of sorts, would troubleshoot my Lent.
My eyes returned to the screen. Watching the scan’s progress, I realized that my mind needed a similar cleansing from such anxious, defeated thoughts. I recalled the words of Psalm 51, perhaps the greatest of all penitential prayers: “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit” (Psalm 51:12).
In her article “Scan Your Heart for Spiritual Viruses,” author Sandra Herron likens Psalm 51 to antivirus software for the soul. Perhaps I needed to meditate more regularly on this passage to ferret out what Herron calls the “unholy intruders” such as “sinful thoughts, selfish desires, and wrong choices (that) sometimes linger unchecked.”
The sacrament of penance, which my parish was offering twice weekly during Lent, was another source of healing I should seek. Rejoicing in God’s mercy, the prophet Micah exults that the Lord “will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins” (Micah 7:19). God doesn’t merely identify and quarantine the “malware” of sin; He purges it utterly from us, emptying our recycle bins, so to speak.
I sensed that I also had to uninstall the worries and concerns that were taking up space on my spiritual hard drive, crowding out the life-giving words of Scripture. Like the autoloading programs on my laptop, these cares were triggered at the start of the day — anxieties about my daily tasks, my relationships, my finances, my possessions, even my walk with God. I needed to move such files over to the divine server by casting my cares upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), releasing my fears and hurts to Him.
My laptop’s virus scan finally finished, and I continued with my tasks. Thanks to Adam, my computer now operated much more efficiently. And maybe — thanks to that angelic tech support I’d also sought — my Lent was on its way to restoration as well.
Gina Christian is a writer in Philadelphia and a member of St. William Parish.