40 Days

Thursday, February 26, 2009 / Comments (1) / by elizabeth

Ash Wednesday was yesterday, thus beginning the Lenten season. I am not one for tradition or "doing" religion for the sake of religion, but I'm a fan of Lent.

This year I have done some research (read: looked it up on the internets) to figure out what exactly Lent is and why people do it, and here's what I've learned:

Lent is a season of fasting and prayer before Easter, usually celebrated by abstaining, which to me sounds like a great paradox. But more on that later. Fasting usually means abstaining from some (or all, though this is not a good idea for 40 days, in my opinion) food, and may be total or partial concerning that from which one fasts, and may be prolonged or intermittent as to the period of fasting. Some decide to pick one food to give up, like meat or sweets. Other people celebrate Lent by abstaining from things that could be unhealthy in their lives, like spending too much time on the internet. A good friend of mine is going to make a concentrated effort to not talk badly about people for 40 days and I think that's wonderful - and is definitely a challenge for most of us except for my roommate Katie because she is pretty close to perfect in the no gossip department.

Lent is a 40 day period that most commonly begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday(not counting Sundays).

BUT! I just learned that there are other ways to count the 40 days:
- Some start on Ash Wednesday and end on Palm Sunday and count Sundays as part of Lent.
- Others start on the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday and end on Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday). [AND! SIDE NOTE! For all of you who celebrate Maundy Thursday (like I do) and have no idea what it means (like i did, until today), maundy is derived from the first word of the Latin phrase Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos which is John 13:24, the words Jesus used to explain to the Apostles why he was washing their feet. LOVE IT!]

The number 40 is spiritually significant for many reasons:
- It rained for 40 days and nights during the great flood (you know, the whole Noah and the ark thing)
- Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God (WITH GOD! HOW COOL IS THAT?!?) and then another 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain WITH GOD a second time.
- The Israelites spent 40 days exploring the Promised Land and then had to spend 40 years in the desert before reaching the Promised Land (pretty much because they were complainy brats)
- After Jesus was resurrected, He spent 40 days with his disciples before he ascended into Heaven

And there are a bunch more in the Bible, check them out for yourself.

I tell you all of this because while I'm not a big fan of traditionalism, I am a big fan of symbolism...must be the English degree rearing its ugly head. Just like I love the Lord's Supper because it symbolizes the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It's a moment, maybe fifteen minutes, where we stop and remember what He did for us.

And I love the Lenten season because it's a symbol to the world (much like Advent) that we're waiting for something more. So why do we "celebrate" by abstaining? Because that which we pursue that is of this world is nothing compared to pursuing God. He is infinitely better than anything we can fathom. Abstaining does not show God how much we love Him and it does not make Him love us more, but instead helps to put things in a proper perspective - that He is greater than I.

I committed to spending thirty minutes a day in prayer for the next forty days. Though that might not seem like a lot of time to all of you super Christians, it is a big commitment for me. I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but entire days pass before I even acknowledge the presence of my Creator. I forget to let Him love me so that I can love other people. And my relationship with Jesus has GOT to be first, before my relationship with anybody/anything else (even the amazing relationship I have cultivated with sleep!)

So what am I "giving up" for Lent this year?


My hopes, my dreams, my desires. My future and my past.

I'm laying it all out before Him. I've asked Him to transform me. It's a scary thing for me, but I'm ready to jump off the cliff.

"Sometimes the only way is jumping, I hope you're not afraid of heights" - Gavin DeGraw


joy @ February 26, 2009 at 11:36 PM

I guess maybe since I was raised Catholic, I thought all Christians observed Lent. Thank you for the refresher course (I LEARNED some things!). My mom used to give up chocolate, and then eat all of our Easter candy. It was also always rumored around my house that you could cheat on whatever you gave up on Sundays. Ha. But the most important thing I remember from Lent in my childhood was always eating fish sticks on Fridays. No meat on Fridays for over a month! (did you read why people do that? I never knew).
I like that I know the meaning of it all, now. Thanks :)