Today, March 5, is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. Having always attended Reformed churches, I in no way claim to be an expert on Lent, please do not read this post as such.
The idea of Lent is however very interesting to me. I’ve always seen it as a practice connected to Catholicism, but it seems more and more I hear about people from Protestant, Evangelical churches giving up something for Lent.
I’ve recently tried to find freedom from a severe Diet Coke “addiction.” I know, I know – there are worse things to be addicted to, however, if there were such a thing as Diet Coke-ism Anonymous… sign. me. up! Giving up drinking Diet Coke is in no way connected with Lent and since I stopped drinking it, my water intake has thankfully doubled. I have a red cup that sits on my desk and all day long I can go down to the water cooler and fill it up. I actually think I’ve come to appreciate water more, especially my easy access to it.
Lent, which is not actually talked about in or instructed from the Bible (although religions that practice it do reference aspects of the Bible in support of Lent) is supposed to strengthen the observer in, “penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing.” The goal is for the observer to come out of Lent “a stronger and more vital person of faith.” From what I understand, traditionally, Lent is a time to fast from specific food items in order to get ready for Easter. (Lent is the 40 days excluding Sundays before Easter).
Items that people give up during Lent now could include things like, sugar, television, Facebook, coffee, etc. In this, the original, religious and traditional meaning of Lent may be a little warped, but people may see it as a time to accomplish goals and tie in a religious or faith-based observance.
As I sip my water from my red cup, I think about friends in Haiti. Some of the villages that we partner with don’t have immediate access to clean water. In Labourdie, there is no well or water distribution source and people have to walk or drive to a different town to get water. It’s hard for me to imagine Haitians observing something like Lent. What would they give up? TV, food items? I don’t think so. Of course there are things that could transcend cultures like “gossiping” that some people may give up in observance of Lent (which I would argue, you should turn over to Jesus every day of the year), but as a whole practice it makes me smile thinking about explaining Lent to a Haitian culture.
If you are giving up something for Lent this year, would you consider giving up something that also gives back? What if you decided to give up drinking anything but water and the money that you would have spent on delicious smoothies and cappuccinos, donate it to water initiatives in Haiti. If you’re giving up TV or Facebook, you could donate an amount to fund the solar panel project to keep the lights on in the Sant Mouvman.
As for Lent, while I choose not to practice it myself, I realize that this 40 day fasting period may have a different meaning to you. I love to learn, so by all means, if you’re giving up something for Lent for a specific reason, I’d love to hear about it. Leave us a comment on Facebook.
Erin Cooper is the CPR-3 Communications Director and the Assistant Coordinator for Momentum Youth Conference.
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