I don't usually do Lent, being as I am from a more non-traditional, less 'religious' Christian background, and I have never really understood why people do it. I mean, I know why people do it, in a religious sense, as a commemoration of Jesus' 40 days fasting in the wilderness, and as a period of reflection and repentance in advance of Holy Week and the Easter celebrations that follow it. But I've not really got to grips with the benefits of observing Lent, spiritually, and personally.
I always thought that people did it because it was expected of them, it was traditional, it was customary, and perhaps even believed to be required for God's approval. (I definitely don't believe that). I've regularly (annually, in fact) dismissed Lent with a casual 'no need for that' and a shrug of the shoulders.
Recently I have begun to notice that there is more to Lent than the ritual fasting and penitence, spiritual shoulder-lashing and theological navel-gazing I had previously (wrongly) assigned it. Today, as I find myself in the midst of one of the most turbulent, challenging and revealing chapters of my life as a wife and parent, what with all the home-educating, house-churching, own-business-running, and depression-overcoming that's been going on, I have to acknowledge that I need to stop. I need to disengage the autopilot, I need to think hard about what I am doing on a daily basis. I need to get before God and be completely transparent before Him, or very quickly the bottom is going to fall out of what it is I am trying to do (and be).
Conveniently for me, this realisation is emerging at a time when Christian tradition dictates that a season of contemplation has begun, and wouldn't it be a good idea to take stock of one's situation, think about how one approaches life, and change things that are wrong or out of sync, perhaps even give some of them up?
I have, rather surprisingly, given that I am, well, me, decided first and foremost to give up chocolate as this year's Lenten sacrifice. I don't think I really thought it through (ha, story of my life!), but the decision has been made, and I may as well stick to it. (My husband laughed in my face when I told him. But then, he does that in response to many of the things I say.) I'm assuming it will do me some good along the way.
More importantly as far as I am concerned, I have decided to focus on doing something positive, on building something good. A model, in fact. A model of parenting, of wife-hood, of family-being-ness (if I may say that without it sounding too, y'know, blech).
I am going to spend this season searching for a deeper understanding of how to do these things well, and in a way that God maybe has always intended for me to do these things. I have two children, aged seven and four, and at some point in the future my husband and I hope to take care of some more, via fostering and/or adoption. So I believe this exercise is long overdue. In fact, I feel I am going to be catching up on many years of missed opportunities to meditate on things in this way, and building a measure of understanding that I have needed many times before, but never really had.
So, to cut a long story short (!) during the next 40 days or so, I'll be looking to God's word, to my own experiences, to the words and experiences of other parents, and to my children, as we build something together. And I hope you won't mind if I share it with you.
For my family.