More Than a Fast: A Guide for Non-Christians Practicing Lent

More Than a Fast: A Guide for Non-Christians Practicing Lent February 26, 2020
Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

This time last year, a good friend who is agnostic reached out to see if I had any pointers for a non-Christian who wanted to participate in Lent. I was surprised at first, but on further consideration I realized I shouldn’t be. Concepts such as Dry January and Intermittent Fasting have gained popularity in secular culture. These trends sort of look like Lent, but they’re very much not Lent. My friend, a very insightful and reflective person, perceived that this season was different and she wanted to learn why.

Perhaps I should have shouted “LENT IS ABOUT JESUS!” I resisted this urge for two reasons

  1. She definitely knows this already. She’s heard me talk about Jesus a great deal.

  2. If she was ready to meet Jesus, He would certainly come to her during her Lenten practice.

My job was to help her to understand what Lent is, what it is not, and how to do it well.

Here’s what I came up with.

Lent is About Repentance

The key difference between the Christian season of Lent and the myriad wellness fads is that Lent is about correcting your moral self, not your physical self. If your goal is weight loss, health improvement, or anything of that sort, you’re not doing Lent – you’re on a diet. Many Christians do fast from things like candy or alcohol during this season, but the goal is the personal growth and spiritual rewards that come from austerity. If it is impossible for you to fast from food without thinking about fitness benefits, than I would advise you to fast from something else, such as social media.

Lent is More Than a Fast

Most people do give something up, but that’s only one aspect of the season. Traditionally, Lent has three parts: fasting, prayer, and alms giving. If prayer doesn’t make sense to you, then make a commitment to daily meditation or journaling – whatever helps you to examine your life. If you have the means, pick a charity to donate to throughout the season. It’s also possible to combine Lenten practices, for example, giving up your daily Starbucks and donating the savings to the ACLU.

Lent is Personal

You don’t have to tell anyone what you’re doing for Lent. You might want to give up pornography, drug or alcohol use, gossip – anything you feel is negatively impacting your ability to be the best person you can be. There is no need to talk about it. In fact, some would say that the less you talk about it the better. You should not seek any praise for you Lenten practice.

Lent Lasts 40 Days and 40 Nights

If you’re doing Lent right, it’s going to be challenging. There is a good chance you will fall down on your Lenten promise at some point during the season. But a Lenten promise is not like a New Year’s Resolution; it’s not over when you fail. If you mess up and break your Lenten promise, you’re still expected to pick up and try again. Keep trying until Easter Sunday. That’s the commitment.

Lent Begins and Ends with Celebration

In Christianity, there is no repentance without celebration. There is no death without resurrection. There is no despair without hope. On second thought, there is no despair at all. If you’re going to practice Lent, you should also celebrate Fat Tuesday and you must celebrate Easter Sunday. There is no Lent without Easter.

 

I don’t know the intimate details of my friend’s experience with Lent last year. I know she didn’t convert. But I also know she’s doing it again this year. So that’s something.

Have a blessed Lenten season.

About Emily Claire Schmitt
Emily Claire Schmitt is a playwright and screenwriter focused on uncovering the mystical in the modern world. She is a Core Member of The Skeleton Rep(resents) and is currently developing a TV movie with the Hallmark Channel. You can read more about the author here.
"Emily, thank you for this article and the thoughtful issues it raises. Are you aware ..."

Dreaming of Priscilla: What if Women ..."
"This is a wonderful suggestion. I've never prayed the Liturgy of the Hours before, but ..."

40 Days in the Desert: A ..."
"Remember the second most important liturgical prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours:https://universalis.com/"

40 Days in the Desert: A ..."
"WOW! What a powerful esssay. It gave me so much to think about. Thank you."

Radical Holiness: A Progressive Case for ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mike Panic

    More voodoo superstitious bullshit in the name of the world’s largest, oldest anfd best defended pedophile ring.

  • Mike Panic

    Hey emily–They were obviously yanking your chain of superstition. Easter? That is just more voodoo bullshit. You keep making huge claims, yet never have you shown us *any* actual proof of your goddyboy claims. Given the atrocities against mankind done by your church in the name of that god, is it any wonder that it wants no part of showing it malevolent face?

    When questioned you just scream louder and then you pull some comedy skit about your make-believe lake of fire run by your ghosts and goblins.