It's a question I've been asked since my high school days, when I was first introduced to the season between Christmas and Easter. It took me a long time to understand what Lent was about, having never grown up in the church.
"I'm giving up chocolate"
"I'm giving up soda."
"I'm only eating fruits and vegetables."
It sounded like a laundry list of trimmed-down New Years resolutions and I just didn't get it. I understand wanting to take part in the sacrifice of Christ, but was giving up fizzy drinks really the way to identify with the magnitude of what was coming on Good Friday? I asked these questions in the confines of my own head while I gave up my own little luxuries every year - coffee, ice cream, Facebook, and all sweets, to name a few.
It wasn't until 2009 that I made a better connection between fasting and the arrival of the Easter season.
I was on staff at our church in Portland. During one of our weekly staff meetings leading up to our Ash Wednesday service, the executive pastor spoke to us about Lent, about fasting... and about anticipation.
The fasting - whether from chocolate, food or Facebook - was a way to remind ourselves of what's ahead. The pinnacle of the Gospel story was on the horizon and fasting causes us to stop, to remember, and to anticipate the glorious death and resurrection of Christ. It slows the clock, it slows our hearts, and it reminds us that God's Kingdom is breaking in, that it will one day be revealed in all its beauty and wonder. Fasting during Lent is a reminder that we are a part of the greatest story ever told, and the story is still being told, here and now.
It's a reminder to anticipate a miracle.
This year, I have a unique opportunity to participate in another beautiful story of redemption, miracles and new life.
We all have the opportunity to participate.
Starting tomorrow, and for the next forty days, I will be partnering with Blood: Water Mission's Forty Days of Water campaign, to help raise money for clean water in Uganda.
- 3.4 million people around the world die each year from a lack of access to clean water. Nearly all of those deaths, about 99 percent, occur in the developing world.
- Half of Africa's population doesn't have access to clean water.
- Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.
The statistics are staggering and the problem seems too big to solve. But, like any good story, there's a beautiful silver lining. We have an amazing opportunity to start chipping away at those horrible statistics. We have an opportunity to save the lives of children and families. We have an opportunity to change a community halfway around the world.
Only drink water for 40 days.
For 40 days, skip your morning run to Starbucks. For 40 days, skip your afternoon Diet Coke. For 40 days, skip the glass of wine at dinner.
Instead of those other beverages, just drink a glass of water.
And when you skip the Starbucks every day, set aside that money you would have spent... stick it in an envelope or somewhere you'll remember. At the end of the week, on Sunday, give that money to Blood: Water Mission - they're going to use it to build wells in Uganda to provide children, families and communities access to clean water.
Afraid to cut coffee out of your morning routine? No problem. If that latte cost you $2, donate $4.
No guilt, no shame... this campaign isn't about what you can't do. It's about what you CAN do.
For the 40 days of Lent, we have the opportunity to participate in glorious anticipation.
We anticipate the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter, God fulfilling His promise that all would be made right and new... and we anticipate the arrival of clean water for thousands of people in Uganda, who no longer have to fear death from simple health problems like diarrhea, parasites and water-borne illness.
This Lenten season, let's anticipate LIFE as a community.
Life in resurrection, life in redemption, life in a simple glass of water.
[This is in collaboration with the community at A Deeper Story, who is also participating in the 40 Days campaign]
all images courtesy of Blood: Water Mission