(Not) Telling you what to do for Lent

What is Lent?

The word “Lent” comes from the Latin word for “Spring,” and it is all about new beginnings. Lent is a 40 day season between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week on the Christian calendar. Though Lent is not directly mentioned in the Bible, this period is related to Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness. It is considered a time of solidarity with Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. For some it’s a time of rebirth, for others a test of willpower, or simply a reason to diet.

When is Lent?

Easter Sunday always falls on the 1st Sunday after the first full moon of Spring (April 1 in 2018). Ash Wednesday falls 6 weeks and 4 days prior to Easter. In reality, there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, not 40. There are different theories around the discrepancy in days. The older theory is that the 40 days are counted from Ash Wednesday, and end on Palm Sunday, when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That 40-day fast was followed up by another week of more intense fasting during Holy Week leading up to the Resurrection celebration.

Others observe Lent by fasting on Mondays through Saturdays, and taking Sundays off. There are 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter when you don’t count the Sundays.

Others still choose to fast for the full 46 days. There are sincere Christians doing it all three ways and more, so I don’t think those historical details are as important as your heart’s intentions as you create and implement your fast.

What am I supposed to give up?

There are many ways Lent can be a powerful time of simplicity, discipline, and spiritual unity. Like most things, the more you put in, the more you will get out. It may sound noble to tell people you are giving up soda for Lent. But if you don’t really crave soda, or don’t enjoy it often or look forward to it to begin with, giving it up is not going to bring you much spiritual awareness and growth. However, if you drink it for breakfast and get headaches without it, attempting to abstain for 40-days will teach you a whole lot!

So when people ask me what they can give up for Lent, I turn it back on them: what do you want to give up the least? Social media? Meat? Coffee? Gambling? Credit Cards? Profanity? Deep down, you probably know what you need to do, maybe you just don’t want to admit it.

Personally, I feel like having an intense Lent this year. I want to pour a lot in, because I want to get a lot out—So (I think I’m going to) trade in some things that don’t particularly serve me, and exchange them for new heights of love, wisdom, courage, healings, miracles, signs, wonders, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Instead of giving up one thing, I’m setting up a personal regiment for these weeks. I like to write out my fast in advance, sort of like a prayer….

God,

Thank you for this season of fasting and clarity. For Lent this year, I prayerfully seek your strength and guidance as I commit to the following:

  1. Diet and Intake-I will drink 1 gallon of water every day during Lent. I will abstain from beef, pork, drinking, smoking, and caffeine. I will limit processed sugar/sweetener intake to approximately 100 calories/day or less. I will consume all food and drink (except water) only between 11am-8pm.
  2. Smart Phone Fast-I will spend much less time on my phone by using it only for phone calls and texts. If there’s any task that can be accomplished on a computer (email, directions, banking, etc) I will use it instead of the phone. I will also wear a wristwatch to keep from checking the time on the phe several times a day.
  3. Exercise-I will complete “Dad Bod Challenge” everyday during Lent. That is, 80 pushups and 120 ab exercises every day. (I completed this successfully in November 2017, so I know it is within my reach.)

To help keep myself accountable, I create and follow a simple spreadsheet that I can check off at the end of each day. Here is a sample:

My Lenten Fast Feb. 14 (1) Feb. 15 (2) Feb. 16 (3) Feb. 17 (4) Feb. 18 (5)…..
1 Gallon Water X X X X X
No meat, drink, etc.   X X X X
Intermittent fasting (11a-8p) X X   X X
Smart phone fast   X X X X
Dad Bod Challenge X X X   X

No matter how basic or involved your fast is, it is extremely difficult for most of us to execute it perfectly across 40+ days. Having a list to check off daily helps to keep you accountable.

Sacrificing lotto, carbs, or anything for a while is great; but remember the words in Isaiah 58 on true fasting. We don’t grow closer to God just by giving up food, but by letting go of injustice, unforgiveness, and malice towards ourselves and one another, “then you will find your joy in the Lord!”

Happy Lent 🙂

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One response to “(Not) Telling you what to do for Lent”

  1. Now that’s what I call a realistic regimen. Looks like you’ve covered all the bases. I like the reminder ( resonates with me) about the cell phone. Definitely working on that one. Giving up injustice is a lofty one. But doable when we “speak out” as individuals, are supported by our communities and work together with others for what is right and pleasing in God’s sight. Thanks for jarring the Lenten “give ups” thinking cap. Good read, Dr.

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