Fat Tuesday and Skinny Wednesday

Skinny Wednesday

“What’s the difference between a flute and a stick in the mud?” our priest asked on Sunday. He then went on, “The stick in the mud is full of itself. The flute has been emptied of itself so it can make music.” That’s a good image for Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.

The origins of Fat Tuesday have everything to do with what happens on the day after. Christians around the world celebrate “Ash Wednesday” which kicks off the 40 days before Easter (what we call “Lent”).  Traditionally Lent is a season of fasting (giving up food or luxuries or vices) and repentance (which means “to re-think” things), and we put ashes on our heads made from Palm branches from the previous Easter season as a sign of our mortality (i.e. “from dust we came and to dust we shall return”). So before the fasting there was feasting. Ages ago, folks would spend Tuesday eating up all the grub (and drinks) that would go bad during the season of fasting, especially in the days before refrigeration.

But the question surfaces, what relevance does any of that have for us?

Our priest did an incredible job reminding us that in a world where many of us are “full of ourselves” we need to be emptied of ourselves – so that our lives can make better music.

All the major world religions have an element of self-denial at their core. Jews have Yom Kippur.  Muslims have Ramadan. Christians have Lent.

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In a world filled with clutter, noise, and hustle, Lent is a good excuse to step back and rethink how we think and live. In a world of instant gratification, it’s a chance to practice delayed gratification – to fast – so that we can truly appreciate the blessings we have.  In a world where virtual friends are replacing real ones, it is an invitation to turn off TV and computer screens so we can spend time with real people again.



It’s an opportunity to give up something that is sucking the life out of us so that we can be filled with God, with life, with love again.

So consider taking the invitation this Lent to “repent” – to rethink how we think and live.  I had one friend tell me his Lenten commitment was not to spend a single dollar these 40 days. Another woman said she was giving up gasoline, only driving one day a week. Others of us may take up smaller commitments – giving up sweets or alcohol or meat.

One of my friends who talks a lot decided to spend time in disciplined silence. Another friend of mine who is a hermit committed to get out a little more and be social.  So there isn’t an anecdote, but there is an invitation – an excuse – to try something new. Some folks may choose, not just to give up something, but to take on something new – to exercise, read, learn a new craft, or pray. So whether it is giving up an old bad habit or take on a new holy habit… May we each use this Lenten season as an excuse to do something that empties us of ourselves so that our lives make better music.

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About the Author

Shane Claiborne

Shane ClaiborneShane Claiborne is a prominent author, speaker, activist, and founding member of the Simple Way. He is one of the compilers of Common Prayer, a new resource to unite people in prayer and action. Shane is also helping develop a network called Friends Without Borders which creates opportunities for folks to come together and work together for justice from around the world. His most recent book is Red Letter Revolution, which he co-authored with Tony Campolo.View all posts by Shane Claiborne →

  • Matthew Shedd

    Brilliant!  That is a beautiful analogy as well.  

  • Joe

    That opening line was absolutely brilliant. If you don’t mind, I think I might borrow it, if I find myself in a situation where it’s appropriate.

  • otrotierra

    Thoughtful as always, Shane Claiborne. Many thanks!

  • Deborah Kauffman

    Beautiful. I especially like the part about your friend who talks too much spending more time in disciplined silence. Good idea for anyone.

  • SamHamilton

    Thanks Mr. Claiborne, this is well said.

  • jim

    I guess I just don’t get Lent, especially in the light of the New Covenant. But to each his own.

  • wjgreen314

    To repent means more than to just “re-think things.” Only re-thinking something sinful may or may not lead to a change of mind and behavior. μετανοέω means to change one’s mind about something; to regard that which was previously thought of one way as the other. Strong’s (for the Strong) Concordance offers the following definition:

    “Change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God). To think DIFFERENTLY after.”

    Repentance almost always includes an observable change in behavior, too. So if one was regularly telling lies, one would repent of mendacity and begin to speak veraciously, the Truth, God’s double-edged sword.

    Jesus said, “Thy Word is Truth.” The author of Hebrews, speaking of the Word of Truth, states,

    “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

    Truth penetrates to our inner-most being where we’re confronted by our sin that warrants our repentance, our renunciation of it, and our turning away from it AFTER a change of mind to forsake that sin in favor of a righteous behavior; obedience to the will of God.

    Curiously, if not compellingly, if the behavior we repent of for lent in favor of something else is sinful and/or opposed to the will of God, we should not resort back to it at the end of Lent. We should continue indefinitely in only the new behavior that is the antithesis of the former unrighteous behavior.

    biblehub DOT com/greek/3340 DOT htm

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