by Jennifer DiFrancesco
Lent. It stresses me out every year.
Like everything else, I know it shouldn’t but it does. It isn’t like we will be graded on it or will be asked to do a public presentation about it. Just when I have a good idea, I overthink it, rethink it, and ask others what they think. What am I talking about? Our family Lenten practice. As a pastor mom, I feel an obligation to come up with the most brilliant and best of ideas. And because of perfectionist-pastor-mom-complex, I overthink it.
What things have we done? Nothing super creative, but a wide breadth of ideas:
handwritten notes to people we know,
donating ten cents per ounce of water everyone consumes to build a well,
collecting and donating a bag of household clutter each day,
doing a random act of kindness each day,
fasting from electronics,
reading through one of the Gospels,
and no fast food.
Where did this whole idea of Lenten give-ups and take-ups even come from?
The season of Lent, which is 40 days* before Easter, was the final preparation process for the early converts to Christianity. The study and process of becoming a Christian took years. These last 40 days of study and devotion was a time for purification and enlightenment. The new convert would then be baptized on Easter morning.
It soon became a tradition that the entire Christian community would observe this season in solidarity with the almost new converts. Lent became a time to recommit oneself to God. So the idea behind either giving up or taking up something for Lent is to help you get back on track or to rekindle your relationship with God.
As our family talks about possible things to give up and take up, our guiding questions are these: What pulls us away from God and from each other? What will help us reconnect to God and each other? With a 12-, 10-, and 4-year-old we get lots of random answers to the questions. And it is always a bit hard to narrow it down and select one, so sometimes we give up something while taking up something else.
We had lots of ideas this year, including:
a compliments jar
a day a week technology/social media fast
each family member is assigned a night to cook a meal that is balanced and healthy
weekly family walks
and fasting from consumerism.
After some discussion, we decided we wanted to add two practices this Lent. First, we agreed that we needed to eat together and eat better as a family. With our hectic schedules, we’ve been eating quick and easy meals that aren’t always the best. So each member of the family will be able to choose and make (with help if needed) a meal a week for the family.
Second, each person would select a day to fast from technology/TV. Probably like most of America, binge watching Netflix and Youtube has become a bit of an issue for our household.
Lent. It stresses me out every year because I want it to be a meaningful time for myself and my family. I want it to be a season when we take and make intentional moments see and recognize the beauty in each other. Recognizing that, indeed, we are each created in God’s image. That when we work on our relationship with others, we are, in fact, working also on our relationship with God.
May this Lenten season not stress you out too much, but may it nudge you and your family into thinking about what you can do that will bring you closer to one another and to your Creator.
*Sunday are not included in the 40 days because they are considered “little Easters.”