In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday starts the beginning of forty days before Easter (not counting Sundays). It is a time of remembrance and repentance; self-denial, moderation, fasting, and the forsaking of sinful activities and habits. It is during this time we are called to remember our sin and prepare for the coming Christ. The ashes (burnt ashes from the previous year's palms from Palm Sunday) are placed on the forehead, "Remember you are dust and to dust shall you return." in the sign of a cross. (Reminder of the redeemed future with God through Christ.)
I’ve always liked the time divisions in the Christian calendar. Whether you are a Christian or not, there is something manageable about the forty days. It is enough time to accomplish something but short enough time to offer variety.
It seems as if forty days are a good chunk of time to accomplish something. I notice this every time I get my hair cut. My hairdresser always makes sure that I schedule my next hair cut before I leave the one I am having. I go every eight weeks. Many times as I leave I think, “Oh, by then I hope to have accomplished thus and such...” Sometimes I hit the mark. Other times I need to reevaluate. Regardless, I feel that the time is doable. I don’t get overwhelmed.
Traditionally the time of Lent (Ash Wednesday- Maundy Thursday) is usually a time of giving up and sacrifice as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The sacrifice is usually one of tangible pleasure- certain foods or activities.
But what about a sacrifice of time? Giving up your time in one activity in order to take time for another activity? For the secular world, forty days is a doable amount to sustain a new habit. What new habits do you want in your life? Can you commit to practicing it over the next forty days?
- Giving up looking at Facebook in order to visit with a friend- a relational habit
- Giving up running out to “pick up something to eat” (which always takes longer than you think) in order to plan menus for sit down dinners at home- a healthy eating and financial habit
- Giving up watching Netflix for reading a book suggested from a book club-an intellectual habit
- Giving up watching the news on television in order to listen to a different news source on the internet/radio-an intellectual habit
- Giving up your personal gym time for scheduled walking with a friend-a relational and financial habit
What about you? How do you treat the Lenten season? Do you give up or take on something for Lent? Have you ever thought about forty days as a good chunk of time to try something new?