I grew up in a Baptist church, and we never talked about Lent (at least if they did, I never heard about it). To me, Lent was kind of like Swiss Chard growing up. It was a real thing; it was mysterious; people partook of it; and yet I had no clue about either. And to be honest, though I’m more familiar with the practices of Lent and the lettuce called Swiss Chard, I’m still learning and growing in my knowledge of both.
I can’t say that I’ve yet to buy a book on Swiss Chard (there is actually a real book on Amazon ALL about Swiss Chard. I do not tell a lie. Google it for yourself; it’s real. I just did), but I did buy a book at the beginning of February on Lent–its history, its purpose, and practical ways to implement fasting, prayer, and alms-giving. It was good–so good. I won’t and don’t have the time to block quote his entire book, but Aaron Damiani in his book, The Good of Giving Up, did an absolutely stupendous job of outlining beautiful reasons why believers (in all denominations) can practice this beautiful journey to the cross.
Designated in the church calendar to be the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, Lent is a season where we create “wilderness experiences” for our hearts and souls, so that we can help ready our souls to embrace the beauty of the Resurrection. Lent is a season where we carve out extra time to boost our prayer lives, strengthen our generosity (in all forms), and fast from the things that take our time, attention, and energy. Lent can be practiced and implemented in all kinds of ways and to all kinds of degrees; Lent is PERSONAL. Lent is not meant to be worshiped; it’s not meant to earn God’s favor; it’s not meant to trim our waistlines; it’s not meant to twist God’s arm into acting how we want Him to act; and it’s certainly not meant to make us “holier than thou.” From my perspective, the sole purpose of Lent is a set-aside time where we can deliberately focus our hearts on the cross and ALL that it means for our lives.
So…after reading the book in the month of February and then praying through the areas in my life that need both a “fast” and some “reinforcements,” I decided that we would broach the subjects with the kids.
Leisurely and spontaneously, I introduced the topic at Sunday lunch. Giving a short explanation for Lent (what it is, why we do it, and how we can practice it), I then shared the ways that I had planned to observe Lent in 2017 and then Daddy shared too.
I explained that in my “fast,” I would be saying “goodbye” to Facebook, Amazon shopping, and “bored snacking” in between meals. I shared how FB, Amazon, and “bored snacking” can take away time and attention from God, and how they can bring a joy that can easily become an idol. I also explained the ways that I felt like God was leading me to be more generous, specifically in areas related to my time (hosting, phone calls instead of texts, notes instead of emails…). And lastly, I shared the ways that I had planned to spent some extra time in prayer and study of God’s Word.
Things were going fabulously.
But then I said, “Soooooo, I was thinking that maybe we could start helping you guys practice Lent.”
Everyone was still in their right minds.
“And I was thinking that one of the things that you guys really love is your TV shows.”
Weird faces started happening.
“Aaaannnndddd…I was thinking that maybe in order to create some more space for God, we would decrease the number of shows we watch and instead…spend a couple of evenings a week, watching the What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver DVDs as a family.”
And then my son just LOST it.
Like heaping, huge, ginormo alligator tears, he started wailing. Not even kidding.
“NOOOOOOOOO. I love my shows!!! That’s not fair!!! I don’t like it!!!”
I can’t remember all his protests and honestly, I couldn’t even hear most of them through the sobs, but suffice to say…BOY WAS “MIFFED-MAD” (I just coined that term, which is exactly why you’ve probably never heard of it before. NBD.).
Again, I reminded him that we weren’t suggesting that “we take away ALL of the shows” but rather decrease the amount of time spent watching the shows they are allotted, so that we could create some extra time to spend as a family–focusing on Easter, the Word, and other activities that promote generosity.
That seemed to bring some reassurance.
“So we can still watch some of our shows?”
“Yes, you can still watch some.”
“Okay. We can do that.”
(younger sister sat in silence watching the whole drama unfold)
Clearly, we had struck an idol nerve. Clearly, we had pounced on something that means a lot to him. Clearly, we had identified an area that he holds dear. And my, oh my, did I ever understand!
No FB posts for 40 days? No “likes” that bring happy pick-me-ups throughout the day?
No quick shopping on Amazon? No scarves and books and dumb junk that brings an easy thrill?
No snacks? No Doritos? No popcorn? No opportunities to stuff feelings and provide an easy, mind-numbing, night-time activity?
Think about taking stuff away, and it doesn’t take long to realize the things we value, love, and even worship.
Fast forward to today, two days after we leaked the idea of Lent.
“Mommy, when does Lent start?”
“It actually starts tomorrow.”
“Oh. Okay. I was just wondering.”
He didn’t sound angry, wasn’t presenting hysterical, and didn’t appear to be ready to jump off the TV ledge; he simply sounded interested.
Having no clue how he would respond but wanting to know what he had gathered from our lunch discussion on Sunday, I asked, “So, what is Lent all about?”
Without missing a beat, he said, “Lent helps us make extra space so we can worship God.”
A smile the size of Mississippi spread across my face.
“You’re right, buddy. You’re exactly right.”
I have no clue what Lent 2017 has in store for the Buczek family, but I am eager to see how God is going to use our “extra space” to bring us into deeper relationship with Him. At the end of the 40 days, I pray that we would look more like Him and less like us and that Lord willing, we won’t lose our minds every single day for 40 days!