Lent. Although my childhood church observed the season with several Lenten traditions that I cherished, I never understood the “why” behind Lent. And, as an adult, when the churches I attended did not observe Lent, my Lenten observances lapsed into distant but fond childhood memories.
It wasn’t until I was reminiscing with two friends over coffee on a cold January day last winter that the question of “why” was resurrected. That night, with my family tucked safely into bed and sleeping soundly, I turned to Google and typed: “Why do we celebrate Lent?”
Wow. What I discovered was both beautiful and amazing.
For the uninitiated, Lent is the roughly 40 days leading up to Easter in which some Christians pray and abstain from meat and other items. Different church denominations count days differently (some count Sundays, others don’t) and have different traditions about how to fast, what items to fast from, and when to fast.
Rather than get bogged down in the nuances of each denomination, I focused on researching two things: Why 40 days? And why fast?
Although it is not a biblical command, there seems to be spiritual significance to the number 40 as a time of preparation, praying, and fasting before hearing from God.
Both Moses (Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:2-13) fasted and waited 40 days before they received instruction from God.
But, most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before he began his public ministry (Matthew 4:2).
And so, in the tradition of Moses, Elijah, and Christ himself, many Christians observe Lent for the 40 days (minus Sundays) before Easter Sunday preparing, fasting, and praying as we wait to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We over at The Ruth Experience so love the significance and symbolism behind the Lenten tradition that we are going to observe Lent this year, beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 5. And we would love for you to join us in our Lent Remixed, regardless of your denomination.
This is the plan: Beginning Monday, March 3 and continuing for the next seven weeks we focus on praying for one country and one cause each week leading up to Easter Sunday. As part of our weekly prayer, we will fast one item. Because we’ll focus on different items and different countries each week, you can join us at www.theruthexperience.blogspot.com or www.facebook.com/TheRuthExperience as we weekly announce each new country, cause, and fasting item as your schedule and life allows — but we hope you’ll consider joining us for all seven weeks.
Or, create your own Lenten tradition with your own causes and items fasted. To get you started, we’ll happy to share what we did last year:
Week 1: Prayed for India, focused on women’s rights (internationally) and fasted from wheat and rice.
Week 2: Prayed for Panama, focused on child abuse, and fasted from social media (we allowed 15 minutes a day).
Week 3: Prayed for Japan, focused on suicide, and fasted from our favorite beverage (mine was coffee).
Week 4: Prayed for Haiti, focused on extreme poverty, and fasted from all unnecessary spending.
Week 5: Prayed for Niger, focused on hunger, and fasted (parents only, children had a simple meal) from two evening meals.
Week 6: Prayed for Syria, focused on children and refugees, and fasted from a personal care item (i.e. cosmetics).
Week 7: Prayed for the United States, focused on human trafficking, and fasted from TV.
The possibilities are endless. We’d love to hear your ideas for your own personal Lent Remixed!