As an Episcopalian, growing up Lent was something that my family regularly talked about around this time of year. As I continued to give things up and became a little more vocal about it in high school, I often got funny looks even from friends who were just of different Christian denominations. Today, on the eve of Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), I’m sharing a little about the purpose of Lent, what I’m giving up, and why! I’m hoping this post will help you to understand Lent a little better if you’re unfamiliar with it, and maybe even inspire you to give up or take on something this Lenten season.
Lent is the observance of Jesus’ forty days and forty nights of fasting in the desert shortly before he was crucified. Today, many Christians observe this time by giving up something they use or eat a lot that may serve as a distraction from God, or by taking on something new, like reading the Bible more, donating to a charity, or praying more every day, for the forty days leading up to Easter. Technically, the forty days doesn’t include Sundays (because the time span from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday including Sundays is actually forty-six days), so many choose to break from their Lenten commitments on Sunday (I’ve personally always been too stubborn to do so). The idea behind continuing to observe Lent today is that we recognize that if it is difficult for us to give up something like dessert, it must have been much more difficult for Jesus to withstand temptation in the desert. When we crave the thing we gave up or struggle to continue doing the thing we took on, we can be reminded of Jesus and take the moment of temptation as a time to pray.
This year, I’m giving up a few things that I see as large distractions from the progression of my relationship with Christ. I am able to step back and recognize that these things are ultimately a waste of time and tend to consume me more than I’d like to admit. The first thing I’m giving up is chocolate, which including this year I’ve given up three times. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic (seriously, I have chocolate at every meal at the very least), so giving up chocolate is not only a healthy break for me, but also the cravings are a reminder to pray. Second, I’m giving up online shopping. For me, online shopping is one of the first things I do when I’m bored and clearly this isn’t good for my bank account or my attempt to distance myself from materialistic thinking. When I catch myself typing in the URL of a store for purposes other than linking things for the blog, I want to begin reaching for Scripture instead. Lastly, I’m giving up Snapchat, another major pointless time consumer. In the last several months I’ve been able to recognize Snapchat as pretty toxic for me; in that it creates wishy-washy relationships, gives me ample opportunities to view stories as breeding grounds for feelings of rejection, exclusion, and comparison, and wastes so. much. time.
Even if you aren’t from a more traditional denomination to whom Lent is customary, I encourage you to give up something or take on a good deed during Lent. I’ve found it to be a great reminder of Jesus in my daily life and I feel like it fosters a stronger sense of connection with God. If you’d like to learn more about Jesus’ forty days and forty nights in the desert, I recommend reading Matthew 4:1-11 (here’s a link to the verses in ESV).
Thanks for reading! If you’re giving up or taking something on for Lent leave a comment and let me know what it is!
Thanks for reading!