Monday, February 22, 2010

The "Have-To" or "Want-To" of Lent

We have been talking about it for weeks. Lent was coming and it was time to think it through. We encouraged our kids to process it with us and start to get ready for this season of preparation.

So, what is it all about? Many people are talking about Lent right now, but what does it really mean? Lent began last week on Ash Wednesday. This liturgical season will continue until the Saturday before Easter (the day between Good Friday and Easter). It is 40 days long, an important span of time in many Biblical stories. During this time, many people choose to give up something that is a part of their daily life in order to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter. But, how does this help us prepare?

When you think through the Easter story, there is a strong element of sacrifice. Out of great LOVE for us, God sacrificed His son so that we could be in relationship with Him. It can be hard for us to wrap our minds around such overwhelming adoration... and such selfless giving. And yet, finding ways to connect to that will help us to better understand and internalize the miracle of Easter. For us, choosing something to "give up for Lent", it is not about eliminating a vice or opting for a healthier lifestyle. It is about finding a way to connect, in some small way, to the reality of sacrifice. As we go through this season, we have a choice. We can bitterly travel from day to day, missing what we have given up or we can use the absence of this thing to remind us about what God has done.

Last year, I gave up pop. It was the first time I had ever taken Lent so seriously but the struggle was so great. I don't drink pop every day but do enjoy it and missed it something awful. I will admit, my attitude got in the way and I was distracted from the point of the whole season. This year, we have thought it through in a way that is clear to us. Decide what to give up. When you miss it, remember to pray. When it gets hard, be reminded that God has given up something so much bigger, so much dearer, to make a way for us. Connect to that truth. Let attitude fall away. Think through that story of love.

In our family, each of us has chosen something to set aside. Even our youngest children have come up with something age appropriate to give up for Lent. Doing this together gives us the opportunity to process it as we share the experience corporately. So far, I think it has been good and I am grateful to have the time to talk with my kids about how loved they really are. I love the idea of them having a daily reminder to send up a quick prayer thanking God for His gift to us. And I know it will all matter...

Our busy days are full of important things to do. We have children to watch over and work to keep them safe. We feed them healthy food and teach them healthy skills and we try to help them grow up in a way that makes sense. Lent offers us a time to step back and focus on helping our children in another way entirely. For these 40 days, we can make their spiritual growth, and our own, a high priority. We can help our children, in small and appropriate ways, connect to The One who loves them best and to the story that shows us how deep that love can go. We can spend the days focused on what we have given away... or on The Gift that was given for us. When we keep our eyes on the latter, this season of sacrifice can be filled with joy that helps us to understand something we might otherwise have missed.

For us, it's not a "have-to" but a "want-to". It is a choice that gives us vision. It's a season with a purpose. It's a way to understand.

What about you? What does Lent mean to you and how do you set it apart? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Blessings on your day!

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