Yesterday was Pancake Day. Today is Ash day. That marks the beginning of Lent. Or as I said when I was a kid, “lint.”
Seriously, I thought it was lint until I could read. And even then, I was pretty sure that is what people participated in or at least how Lent was properly pronounced. Giving things up for the fuzzy stuff under the bed… Not really, but that is what it sounded like to me.
For many people, ‘tis the season to give up something random for 40 days. But, if you are good and liberal, it will be something easy… And Sundays don’t count… For some odd reason. But, the whole Sunday thing depends on whom you talk to.
When I was a kid, I would always want to give up something that would be really easy to give up… One year, I asked to give up milk. Because I really did not like milk (I wasn’t right). Mom wouldn’t let me. Something about not giving up stuff that is good for you. Sensible.
Over the past couple of years, I haven’t done the whole Lent thing. The last thing I gave up was coffee (I am pretty sure I would now collapse from caffeine withdrawal, perhaps a sign that I should give up coffee). I was feeling confused about where I stand on the whole Lent thing and where God stands on the whole Lent thing. I was raised to Lent. But I didn’t really get why we Lented (not a verb?). My relationship with Jesus deepened, but my attachment to tradition in the religious organization sense is not there anymore. I want to know why, not just routine.
I did a bit of research into the topic… And a lot of prayer about it. I am not an expert on the historic basis… Just using my google-wiseness.
Many Christian faith backgrounds practice Lent, particularly Catholics. Another few don’t… Well, they do, but not as structured or required as some others. And even fewer reject the concept in full.
The notion that I gathered is that this tradition was created to remember where we came from and to repent of sins. It is preparation for the celebration of Easter to come. It was originally, when created, to be a time of fasting… Like a one meal a day, no meat, kind of fasting. That has changed over the years. More on that later.
The true challenge of the Lenten journey is to live and take in the words said during the imposition of ashes “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” or “You are dust, and to dust you will return.” -Kristan Doerfler
The duration, 40 days is the number that reappears throughout the Bible… Jesus was in the desert 40 days, the rain fell for 40 days when Noah and friends were on the boat, the Israelites wandered for 40 years. The number of days between Ash Wednesday and Easter is actually 46… That is where the Sundays disappear.
Interestingly, Lent isn’t in the Bible. It didn’t start until a few hundred years after Jesus was crucified. The concepts of fasting are, including notions of abstaining from meat in Isaiah 22:13 (that explains why many don’t eat meat on Fridays). The Bible also talks about the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes in verses, such as Daniel 9:3 and Matthew 11:21. Fasting is a concept written about in the Bible, though not during a set time frame… We see the power of prayer and fasting in Acts 13:2-3. Also, in 1 Corinthians 10:31, we see that we should do everything to the glory of God, whether it be fasting or speaking.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31
In Matthew 6:1-9 and 16-18, Jesus is talking about the Pharisees and their approach to prayer and such. He is saying that they are being showy. Some people (not necessarily me) argue that giving something up for Lent and the talking about it and what a hardship it is can be a bit like being like a Pharisee. I can see it in extremes, though fundamentally, I see nothing wrong with telling someone what you give up for Lent, especially for accountability.
Also, nowhere does it say that giving up something will get you to heaven. Or make God forgive you of your sins. Or get you brownie points. Only Jesus gets you to heaven. And the fasting is supposed to bring you closer to God in relationship.
Now, for the stuff people give up. As I said, the initial Lenten season was apparently pretty serious fasting. Now, it is a no-meat Friday for some and a no chocolate 6 days a week and such thing. An interesting thing I am noticing is that some people are trying to gain new lifestyle habits and expand on their faith walk. Not fasting, but the prayer side of things. There are also very interesting movements to make Lent not just a spiritual fast, but also a movement to aid others. One such movement that has intrigued me is 40 Days of Water. This entails drinking only tap water Monday-Saturday (treats on Sunday allowed) and giving the money you would normally spend on the coffee, juice, pop etcetera to clean water projects in Uganda (this would also involve not drinking milk… Ha, take that Mom!).
So, back to God and me. I have been feeling called to do something tangible and challenging. I can’t (translate I am too big of a wimp) to do the water thing in full. You see, the caffeine withdrawal headaches with lead to pains of migranous proportions and I get at least a quarter of my fruit and veggie intake from juice. But, I do want to do something that has meaning and will also stretch me a bit. A legitimate fast from something. So, I am doing a modified (translation semi-health related cop-out of the whole program. I am giving up all the non-tap water drinks every day of the week, with the exception of one serving of other beverage. One serving. To prevent the big headaches or hypoglycemia. So, a regular (i.e. Starbucks tall) coffee or glass, none of this movie theatre sized stuff. I figure seven of those would equate a binge on Sunday of epic proportions. And then I still kind of fit in the challenge. Except for my lame cop-out.
I want to make this more spiritual. To actually connect with God through this season. Not necessarily because it is “Lent” as such, but because it is a great thing to do, especially to gear up for Easter. And the opportunity to do the water challenge came around. I want to focus more on God, His provision and His sacrifice. And at the same time make my own sacrifice. I’m not sure if I am completely down with the whole Lent thing as a religious ritual. Actually, it makes me a little uncomfortable (everyone is very different in their perspective of religious tradition, I am still trying to sort out what exactly I think of some of it). But, I am comfortable with praising God and growing in my faith. So, that is what I will do.
I am telling the Internet world this for accountability. And because maybe someone else is looking for this type of opportunity and this is what they were looking for. I may or may not give an update on this adventure mid-way. I hope and pray that this will help me to know more of the sacrifice Jesus made for me, that it will cause me to seek Him more and that it will benefit those in Uganda more than me.