This year, Lent will be observed from February 26th – April 9th. You may be thinking, isn’t Lent just a Catholic tradition? Why should we observe it? My kids would never go for that, anyways. Or maybe you’ve chosen not to participate because it can feel similar to a New Year’s resolution in which one gives up something “bad” and sees how well they can succeed at that for 40 days (which is longer than a New Year’s resolution lasts…amirite?!).
Unfortunately, modern Christendom does a great job of telling us what to do without explaining the why behind those things. Lent is actually a really cool tradition to observe, whether your family is Catholic or not. We hope this post will inspire you and your family to view Lent in a new way this year.
What is Lent?
Lent is the preparatory and anticipatory season that comes before Easter—a season of physical restraint that inwardly prepares us for the glory of Easter morning. It’s a season to gaze upon the cross of Jesus, a season of repentance that calls us to return to God in our hearts, minds, and actions.
This season invites us to make space in our hearts and time in our schedules for God. It’s the opportunity to align our bodies and souls more deliberately with God. It is living for forty days how we should be living 365 days a year. “In this season God wants to liberate us from the bondage of our slavery to self-centredness, greed, busyness, and rampant consumerism.”
But it’s not just a season of dark penitence; it’s also full of joy, hope, and healing because we know that, as we take an honest look at the state of our hearts, we are never too far gone from God’s redeeming grace.
Why your family might consider observing Lent
Lent can be a beneficial spiritual practice for anyone, young and old alike, and there is significance beyond merely swearing off candy or Facebook. Having physical, tangible reminders that point us to deeper spiritual realities and to the grand story we’re part of is important for our spiritual journeys. Liturgies and traditions that involve our minds, hearts, and senses are powerful to shape our imaginations and combat our apathy and forgetfulness.
Practical ideas for Lent
- Biola University’s Lent Project. Don’t underestimate the power of beauty in our lives. Biola does a fabulous job of bringing together art, music, poetry, and scripture to teach us (more than just intellectually) in this season.
- Ash Wednesday. Find a local Ash Wednesday service, even if your church doesn’t have one. You will be reminded that “You are dust, and to dust you will return.” Then, be brave enough to walk around all day long with ashes on your forehead, and look for others who’ve done the same.
- Meditate on Psalm 51. Print it out where you can see it. Read it together often. Perhaps memorize it. It encapsulates Lent very nicely.
- Music for Lent.
- To Sing: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “What Wondrous Love Is This,” “Abide With Me,” “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Man of Sorrows (What a Name),” “Were You There?,” “Nothing But the Blood.”
- Playlists: Lent with Sacred Ordinary Days, Brother by The Brilliance, Traditional Lent.
- Fast together. Fasting is probably the first thing you think of when someone mentions Lent. Unfortunately, there’s a version of Lenten fasting that is a competition-like, social-media-driven show that flies in the face of what it’s intended to be. Rather, fasting is a tangible expression of our inner conversion. We are reconciled to God through Christ, but we are also, in a sense, reconciled to a more truly human version of ourselves. We are no longer slaves to our sinful nature. Jesus’ power in our lives gives us power over the desires of the flesh.
- One big thing to remember is that we don’t have to fast from something that’s bad, just something that will make an impact—something that we’ll feel. We don’t need to use it as another chance at our New Year’s resolution or to go on a diet and lose weight or to finally follow our doctor’s advice to stop eating sugar. We might indeed reap physical or emotional benefits from our fast, but that isn’t the focus, and it’s better to choose something that you don’t plan to give up forever.
- Practice almsgiving. Almsgiving is a tangible expression of the truth that we can be reconciled with our neighbor, even and especially those who have nothing to offer us in return or those we don’t particularly like. We can give generously and sacrificially, not out of guilt but, again, for the sake of something greater, knowing that we’ve been given much. In giving, we experience greater freedom from the shackles of materialism and consumerism.
- Pray together. Prayer is a tangible outworking of our reconciliation with God. We can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16). We no longer have to rely on animal sacrifices and high priests; we ourselves can come before God and converse with Him in intimate relationship. This isn’t a small thing.