What Is Lent?
Lent is a journey…
A pilgrimage from dark to light.
Our quest is simple; to find God. To reach out in the midst of the darkness and busy-ness, and invite Jesus to walk with us.
True confessions of a Christian educator: I’m very good at offering other families a variety of ways to explore Lent together, but as my own boys have grown older, I’ve neglected continuing meaningful Lenten practices at home. I am committing to changing that; this will be my own most important and personal Lenten discipline this year.
First, we need to set aside time and space, as a family, despite homework and work and activities. I love this short video of Jesus on his journey into the desert, which is appropriate for all ages. I’m looking forward to sitting down to watch it as a family, and to hearing what my boys will say about it:
When we first watch this video, I’ll ask my boys to tell us what they see happening, in their own words. I hope they notice that we see a bored Jesus, a playful Jesus, a weary, frightened, and also a wondering Jesus in this video. With older children and teens, it’s always a good idea to talk less than we listen, but sometimes my kids toss out a quick “Yeah, that’s cool Mom,” and then go back to their devices. So I’ve got some questions ready:
– Can we imagine being all alone for 40 days? No friends, no texts, no social media? I’m looking forward to all of our thoughts on this!
– Who is the red character walking towards Jesus on day 34? We’ll look up and read Matthew 4:1-11 for the answer. I want them to notice that ‘the tempter,’ who is also referred to as both ‘the devil’ and ‘Satan’ in this chapter, looks a lot like Jesus did at the beginning of the video. We’ll talk about where and when we tend to feel temptation.
– We’ll stop at Day 32; what’s happening here? Why do we think the angels leave Jesus in the cave (waiting until day 40 to rescue him)?
– What do we think Jesus gained by putting himself through this trial?
Once we’ve viewed and talked about this video, more than anything I hope to help my boys learn to reach out to God whenever they need love and strength.
I pray; a lot. We say grace at dinner; some of the time. We all know the Lord’s Prayer of course – between school and church my younger son can sing it in two different melodies, in both contemporary and traditional language. But we don’t talk about prayer enough in our family. Research shows that thinking about God through prayer or meditation for 12 minutes a day over 8 weeks showed measurable improvement in brain functions such as memory and attention. I want that for my boys…what parent doesn’t want that for our kids?
I encourage my boys to pray, but I’m not sure I’ve done a good job of showing them how. That’s something else I will change this Lent, starting with this very simple and personal breath prayer. (Click the arrow below to play.)
The Breath Prayer is my lifeline in times of stress, anxiety, and fear, as well as in times of extreme joy and love. When I use this prayer, I can honestly feel the Holy Spirit filling my body and soul, and I feel calmer. It’s a perfect prayer for our children, whose emotions so often overwhelm them and leave them without the words to even name their feelings. This prayer reminds me, every time, that I am never alone on this journey, that the love and strength of the Holy Spirit is always with me; I want my boys to know how to reach out for God in their times of struggle.
Finally, we will talk about how our family can make time and space for Lent, particularly in how we treat the people around us:
What are the sorrows and stresses of our life together? What do we see in our community that hurts our hearts, and what concrete steps can we take to change those things or help hurting neighbors? How can we practice gratitude for the abundance in our life, while sharing it with those who have less?
I’m looking forward to marking Lent with my teen and preteen, and hopeful that the season will bring us into a fresh and faithful, more mature, spiritual relationship.
We’d love to hear how your family decides to lean into Lent this year in the comments below!