Have you ever sat down and actually counted the number of days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday?
Go ahead, then, I’ll wait.
You didn’t do it, did you? That’s OK. You will. Maybe not today, but later in the season, when the craving for just one bite of chocolate or one sip of wine become too great, you’ll sit with your calendar and count the number of days remaining in your Lenten fast. And you’ll come to a disturbing discovery: there are always more days left than you think.
Despite all the rhetoric about being a 40-day season of fasting, the actual number of days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day are actually more like 47 than two-score.
What the heck is up with that!?!?
While the fact of the seven extra days is undeniable, the reason for its existence is a matter of debate in the church. One explanation is that Sundays are not counted in the fast. Others put the end of the fast on Palm Sunday and suggest that there is a whole other season of fasting during Holy week. I happen to believe the later, but am willing to confess that the “no-Sundays” solution is far more popular.
No matter which rationale you prefer, the experience is basically the same. Our season of self-denial and discipline is always longer than we expect it to be. Though frustrating, I think this is good. My dad used to say that he could hang upside-down by his toes if he just knew how long. A little variability can really confound our determination. What if you don’t know exactly how long you need to hang? It makes it harder.
Thus we find one of the core truths of Lent and the whole Christian experience. We don’t know how long. We are constantly struggling with the tension between giving up and hanging on just a little bit longer. The disciplines of Lent, variable and frustrating as they may be are there to prepare us for the insecurities of our everyday walk of faith. They develop our spiritual fitness.
Happy Lent, friends. Hang in there.