As many of you are probably already aware, last Wednesday marked the beginning of a very precious season of the Christian calendar: the season of Lent. Many of you may have risen early and congregated at your place of worship, where ashes mixed with oil was placed on your forehead in the shape of a cross. Or you arrived at work Wednesday morning and proceeded to inform some of your coworkers that they had something smudged on their foreheads. (This happened to a friend of mine at work.)
No matter how you know it, what you think of it, or whether you actively observe it, you probably mostly associate the Lenten season with less chocolate, soda, and meat and more church services and fish options on most fast food menus. Believe it or not, that isn’t really the true reason for the season. (Kind of like Santa isn’t who Christmas is all about and the Easter Bunny really has nothing to do with the real Easter.)
That isn’t to say that fasting is not a true part of Lent. According to Wikipedia (great scholarly source, I know), Lent is all about Christians preparing themselves to mourn the death and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through a 40-ish day period of prayer, repentance, fasting, and giving. I think what makes the difference between a trivial Lenten fast and a true Lenten fast is the heart and purpose behind it.
Sure, you could just give up Facebook for 40 days, or you could give up Facebook for 40 days and use that half hour of your day to instead pray for the less fortunate. Giving up junk food is super common and an okay idea. But wouldn’t it be better to give up junk food because you recognize that when you are experiencing a particularly difficult emotion, you run to the fridge for comfort instead of running to the foot of the cross?
Two of my roommates have taken this view of fasting to heart, both choosing to fast in different ways that are physically difficult and spiritually healthy for them individually. Ariana has taken what is seen to be a more traditional route, giving up meat and most other animal products. However, this has great spiritual significance for her because she has spent a great deal of her life working as a cook/chef and she finds great joy in cooking and enjoying fabulous meals. Brittany, on the other hand, who can barely cook to save her own life and usually subsides on granola bars, yogurt, and cereal, has committed to eating healthily and learning to cook during Lent. (She has successfully made french onion soup and some sort of fish dish so far. We are encouraging her to now choose foods that leave less of a lingering smell in the apartment.) :) Despite how strikingly different their fasts are, the hearts behind their choices are very similar.
Several weeks ago, I received an email from World Vision (super amazing organization that all of you should check out and donate to RIGHT NOW!) about something their ACT:S division started called Lent 2011: Relentless Acts of Justice. (Click the pic below to learn more.)
ACT:S is the activism division of World Vision. From their website, “We are a network of young activists fighting to change the brokenness in this world, writing our own modern-day Book of Acts.” (The book of Acts chronicles the actions of the Apostles after Jesus ascended to Heaven as they continued the work He began and helped to spread Christianity across the globe.) Over the six weeks leading up to Easter, subscribers to the RAoJ email receive daily emails helping them to “emulate Christ’s incarnation [AKA: live more like Christ] through six real-life stories that we will bring to life by giving up everyday luxuries.”
So during this season of Lent, I’ve decided to blog daily about my experiences as I go through Lent with ACT:S. Unrealistic, perhaps, but I know how much I struggle to discipline myself in spiritual areas, so I know this is something I need to do. With my brand new 40 hour a week schedule (up from 19) and my insatiable perfectionism (I have been working on this post for almost 3 hours), this will be a struggle, but it is one I take on with joy. I will do my best to blog daily. And I hope you will read on a similar schedule. :)
[EDIT on 5.3.2011: So, this didn’t happen. Turns out that working two jobs and already struggling to balance your life doesn’t bode well for trying to add another daily task that takes a huge chunk of time. Ah well, maybe next year?]