I’m giving up sugar for Lent this year, what are you giving up Dad?
Our family and church community mark the season of Lent each year with a series of activities, services and studies. In addition to that, there is of course the idea of fasting from items that are pleasurable, such as chocolate or coffee (in my case) in order to act as physical reminders of Jesus's own 40 days in the wilderness and to prepare us for what Easter means.
Yet I was surprised and challenged when Mr 15 in our family opened up over the dinner table the other night with this question. I’m giving up sugar for Lent this year, what are you giving up Dad? What followed too, were plenty of suggestions for me, starting with my coffee addiction and moving to a range of more outrageous suggestions… all for my spiritual growth clearly!
Ms 11 year old was also in her brothers' sights… ‘You would give up ice cream…” (no response), “or chocolate!” Unsurprisingly, these suggestions weren’t received gratefully and the conversation started to deteriorate. I sensed the need to step in…
“The point of giving up items in Lent is to make space to reflect on who we are and what God has done for us in Jesus and all that Easter is about”. I said in my best Christian teacher voice. “The giving up of items is meant to make us stop and remember… ‘Now, I’m not eating ice cream now, even though I really want to and should because it looks so good… because it’s Lent and I’m preparing and Dad said it would be good for me!”
Over the last few years, our family has used the TEAR Lent cards each week as part of our Lent time. So usually once a week before dinner, we’ve taken turns to read out the reflection and made time to pray. These beautiful cards then sit on our table as a reminder during this season that we are again preparing for Easter and all that means.
As the days get shorter and the hot cross buns more and more prominent in the supermarket shelves, how do we as families carve out time to stop, to confess our ‘poverty of spirit’, and recommit ourselves to be people of resurrection? Life is so full, with so many distractions and requests for our time, our money and our loyalty. How do we prepare ourselves and our families for the Easter message?
For what it’s worth, Mr 15 and Ms 11 suggested that I abstain from screens after 8pm every night. No checking the latest work email, social media post, news story or sporting video… After some trepidation, I agreed and so at the end of February, I have put in a simple action in place to help me continue to reflect upon Jesus' death and resurrection.