You could say I might be a tad egotistical for fixating on this eponymous day rather than starting off by talking about Lent as a whole, but cut me some slack. Ash Wednesday is practically a second birthday to me, I’ve already had people wishing me (seriously). And as fun as Pancake Day was yesterday with everyone racing out to grab irresponsible quantities of lemon and maple syrup, and endless boomerangs of audacious pancake flips, it doesn’t compare to the most memorable of all Wednesdays. As a Christian that has always focused more on moral guidance rather than strict orthodoxy, I tend to leave the dogma at the door for a lot of significant traditions within Christianity. With that admission, it might seem strange that I would swap the commercialism of Easter with it’s hunt for chocolate eggs for a more archaic celebration. But this is a rare time where I do want to fixate on the spiritual teachings for a change, because it’s becoming harder to embrace.
Lent is a time for reflection, penance and deep appreciation for self-discipline, and in an increasingly secular society, I feel that taking a step back and slowing down as a practice has been lost at times in our busy lives. This year, I’m giving up meat (primarily chicken since I have quite an unhealthy obsession with it) for 40 days, as over the last few months, I’ve read much about the worrying correlation between the scale of agricultural farming and the current state of the climate. Although I don’t think I am ready to eradicate meat from my diet completely, I am a firm believer in moderation, and this next 40 days is a chance for me to exercise self-discipline in another part of my life. I mean, it’s hardly a comparable feat to Jesus’ withdrawal to the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, but I’m also not the Messiah tasked with saving the populace from sin. My bar is significant lower.
’40’ is a recurring and significant number in the Bible. In Genesis, the great flood that deluged the Earth was conjured up over 40 days and 40 nights, the Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before finally reaching God’s promised land and Moses fasted for 40 days before being handed the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Whether you believe in a religion or not, what we can all agree on is endurance and mental resilience is paramount in order to realise great potential.
Fasting or sacrificing your vices for 40 days isn’t anything in itself, but to me, it lays down the essential humility and discipline in order to continue on the year stronger and more focused. On today of all Wednesdays, it would be a shame for me to not make a positive change in homage to all those who have endured tough, personal sacrifices.