Lent is the 40-day period—not including Sundays—before Easter, a time when Christians are called to prayer and repentance, representing the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before starting his earthly ministry. The Spirit led Jesus into the desert to pray, fast and seek God’s will. During that time, the devil tempted him over and over again, physically, mentally and spiritually, trying to push him over the edge. Jesus resisted the temptation because he had been fasting for 40 days, replacing physical food with spiritual reliance on the Father.
For me, whenever a big Christian holiday comes up, I always try to think about what we can learn as a family, and how we can apply that learning in our everyday lives. With Lent, the lessons vary, but all fall under the same theme—to remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice and to reflect on what it means to be a Christ-follower.
Insert our life-hacking skills. Instead of taking a deep dive into our souls and allowing God to search our hearts for the sin we refuse to acknowledge, we try to make things a little more comfortable. We journey toward the cross, feeling accomplished if we give up our Starbucks addiction, sweet-tooth fix or daily Facebook preoccupation. But in giving up these things, are we actually learning to be more like Jesus? I might be wrong, but I think the answer is no.
In giving up these things, are we actually learning to be more like Jesus?
Jesus made a huge sacrifice for us. As followers of Jesus, we are called to model that sacrifice. As parents, we have the responsibility to teach that sacrifice. Not the life hacked version but the true, meaningful, gospel-centred, hard version.
Jesus went through “hard” in the desert in order to continue his holy purpose. He calls us to that same hard because, let’s be honest, giving up coffee is the worst, but it’s not hard.
These are some big lessons for us.
These are some big lessons for our kids. Lessons that will serve our kids much more than just learning to give up something. So how do we explain this deep, meaningful and fundamental piece of our belief system?
Live those lessons ourselves. Nothing will teach your kids more than modelling the lessons of Lent, which means more than just giving up chocolate or coffee.
Read the Gospels. I know this may sound silly, and there’s nothing wrong with children’s Bible story books. But if Lent is about Jesus and God’s big plan for our littles, we need to open that Word and help our kids develop the skill of reading the Bible.
Tell them what Jesus did and why. I am a big proponent of not oversharing world news with our children, but in this case, there is no such thing as oversharing. Let your kids know how badly Jesus was treated and how he went through all those horrible things because he loves them so much.
Finally, use Lent to help your kids develop healthy spiritual rhythms. No matter how old they are, it’s not too soon to teach them the importance of sacrificing some stuff that we may want to do and fill ourselves with Jesus, prayer and his Word instead.
Lent is easily overlooked as something that we just always do. But when we look at it through the lens of teaching our children to be strong, knowledgeable and passionate Jesus-followers, Lent becomes a significant opportunity. I want to teach my kids that Jesus gave up so much more than his daily caffeine fix—he died for them. He calls us to quit the life-hacking and to build our lives upon that beautiful sacrifice.
Captain Bhreagh Rowe is the community ministries officer at St. Albert Church and Community Centre in Edmonton.