The days of Fat Tuesdays, of celebrations and excesses, have now given way to these forty days of fasting and sacrifice. It’s always a hard transition to make, yet a challenge is a challenge and, like those New Year’s resolutions we firmly made a couple of months ago (how are they working, by the way?), we want to give Lent our best shot too. So we dutifully take a quick reflective peek inside our dark places and make a promise to give up something we like (except on Sundays) , encouraging other family members to follow suit.
Yet, truth be told, the invitation to sacrifice is not usually well-received invitation. Pace at work is crazy, school studies and other important responsibilities require constant attention, and we are lucky if we get even a few minutes of daily quality family face time together. So what’s up with more sacrifice now? Aren’t we sacrificing enough just getting from morning to night each day?
But like Christmas, Lent also requires us to focus on the “Reason for the Season”. Jesus spent forty days in the desert over two thousand years ago not to make a meaningless sacrifice that would make his mother happy, but to prepare him for the ultimate sacrifice down the road. To do that, he had to get away from all the distractions of his world so he could define and focus on what was really important when all was said and done.
So instead of “what am I going to give up?”, what might happen this Lent if we ask key questions about what is most important? To get there, consider some ultimate situations like:
- If the house was burning, and you only had time to collect one thing of importance for each person in your family(but not yourself) what would you grab for them and why? (this will help individuals reflect on how others see them).
- If you had only six weeks to live, how would you choose to spend that time, and with whom?
- If you could choose only three values that would guide your life from this day on, what would they be?
- In your Last Will and Testament, what two pieces of wisdom/advice would you wish handed down to your children and grandchildren?
I’d be willing to bet that the answers to these questions and the hopes and dreams they reveal, would not resemble most of the way we are choosing to live our lives at the present moment. If your family life is like most, it probably involves rushing from “what’s now?” to “what’s next?, seeking quick nourishment through pre-packaged servings of something or other while managing life through multiple screens.
I believe that deep inside we are always yearning and hoping to be transformed, but we find ourselves settling for what is and what’s next instead because it’s the prescribed route and the path of least resistance. That’s exactly why Lent is so important – it gives us a chance to resist the temptation to just get by or go with the flow. Like Jesus rejecting a world handed to him on a platter with stipulations, we too need encouragement to resist what the world is offering, and to live lives based on what is most important and meaningful to us as a parent, a teen, a brother or sister, a grandparent, an employee or student. So what ultimate direction will this Lenten journey lead you and your family?