Today I didn’t feed the kids.
Well, almost. Sure they had breakfast and lunch, and I’m sure a couple necessary preparatory snacks between the two, but their after school routine was void of the coveted snack. They went without and not without a fight.
In fact, I reminded them in the morning, “Remember, nothing after school. Nothing.”
Even before I reached home, a text message from one of my dear daughters popped up on my phone begging for a snack. As soon as I graced the doorway of our home in obvious distress, the pleading began. “Dad, I’m sstttaaarrrving! There’s no way I can make it to dinner!”
“Well, you have to. That’s what we agreed on and committed to doing. And that’s it, ok?,” I replied with the edgy frustration of going a day, a single day, but not quite a whole day yet, without food. I meet so few people who are fans of fasting, maybe the idea and even the discipline, but not mid practice.
This was their first go at fasting: not a whole day without, nor a skipped meal, but a single, small and limitedly nutritious snack.
I knew it would be a challenge for them and their desires, but during this first week of Lent we focused on temptation, how our immediate desires do not have to be satisfied and dictate our way in life.
Wants are different than needs. That was the teaching focus as we embarked on celebrating and observing Lent together.
Once the opulent petitioning subsided and they halfway believed that they would in fact make it from lunch to dinner with little difficulty, I reminded them of our reasoning. Lent.
O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power and idle talk, But give me rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to my servant. Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen
- St. Ephrem, the Syrian
Lent marks a time when the Gospel is internalized and accepted deeply. It spans the observed time between the excitement and expectation of Advent, the coming of the Christ, and the eternally joyous resurrection. Lent gives space and opportunity in the in between for us to repent of our indifference toward God, meditate on His goodness and pray for help to be more like who we should be.
My little daughters don’t fully grasp the gravity of Lent, the humility, the repentance, the letting go for a tighter hold. I’m not always completely sure I do, but one thing I do know fully is that parenting is about showing and doing not telling and pointing.
Together, for the first time, we committed to observe Lent as a family.
So I set a course for us to travel together over the next several weeks through this season of Lent into dimmer waters, the abyss of our hearts not always visited, not always wanted.
Last Wednesday evening, Ash Wednesday, on our normal family cook nights, we cleared the table after the made meal and read scripture. We read about Jesus’ temptation following His 40 days alone and without food. The girls asked questions and began to connect the dots between temptation, prayer, scripture tucked away in our hearts and response.
Then, several days later, came our day to fast. They squirmed through it and begged for a different course but we were walking together, together we would stay.
There’s so much to go wrong in parenting, so many pitfalls and mistakes, so much to seep through the cracks. One can’t possibly always know exactly how to be, what to say and which correct way to go at every fork and bend. But I do believe the key to parenting and getting those little hearts nipping at your heels one moment and running from you the next is to show, display, guide - live life out in front of them giving them a pattern and context to mimic and to own.
In the weeks ahead, they will be challenged to go without other things (for a day) often clouding and busying our hearts.
...without television ...without sweets ...without internet ...without music
...and a couple others that will undoubtedly provoke more opulent begging and pleading.
Trim the fat. Prune the branches.
Pray for them, friends:)