Ten days from today Christians around the world will remember the day we now call Good Friday, and twelve days from today we will rejoice as we once again reflect on the resurrection of Jesus, the empty tomb and all that Jesus accomplished us. This is, or should be, a really big deal. As a parent and as a follower of Jesus I have struggled over the years to find ways to keep my heart focused on the reason for this season. I’m just being honest. Christmas presents a similar struggle, but the truth is, especially when it comes to teaching our children, it is emotionally easier to deal with a stable full of animals, shepherds and angels, and a brand new baby (even though we pretty that up way too much to be reality) than it is to look hard at the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. I think that might be a big part of the reason that we tend to just skip right to the Resurrection. Jump to the part where Jesus is victorious. After all, it is so wonderful and joyful and amazing, right?!?
I have found that it is very important for me to not avoid looking at the hard part. My heart just isn’t ready to truly celebrate and appreciate Easter without it. I need to remember. God’s Word is full of instructions for his people to look back and remember what He has done. He has designed us to need these backwards glances in order to continue into the future with clarity and gratitude and joy. Over the past several years I have intentionally set out to find ways to make this season meaningful and, along with my husband, teach our children to as well.
I started with taking a look at Lent. While many Protestant churches do not observe Lent, there are also many that do. Before I threw it out as a legalistic period where I was to “give up” something I enjoyed to punish myself (like Chocolate or Facebook) and head to all of the local fish frys on Friday nights I wanted to know what it was all about. What a marvelous time we live in, with the ability to search the internet and in an instant have information at our fingertips! I don’t want to get off track here and write a thousand words about how Lent came to be – you can Google that for yourself.
To give you a very brief and not all-inclusive summary: Lent is observed in the days leading up to the celebration of Easter. Traditionally there are 40 days which are modeled after the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. It is intended to be a somber season of reflection, prayer, fasting, and giving. There are many ways those things play out in the lives of Believers of differing denominations, but I could certainly agree that those are all things that Scripture addresses and, when not done with legalistic motives, are good things. (Done because I want to, not because I HAVE to. Sound familiar?)
I have chosen this year to observe Lent in a way unique to me. After praying for God’s guidance I adopted the following (which I share with you NOT for you to emulate, but as food for thought and an encouragement for you to take these remaining days a create your own season of preparation. I know there aren’t 40 days left, but I can assure you that you can experience a very meaningful time with the Lord in the 10-12 days you have. I can only imagine the joy we can all experience on Easter Sunday with hearts that have spent time preparing. Here is my personal plan.
I began with asking God to reveal to me any areas where sin has taken root in my heart and to be the masterful gardener and pull those weeds OUT. I prayed Psalm 139:24 "Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” NLT I have continued to ask God to examine my heart and show me anything that needs to go.
As a sacrifice, I have chosen to get up 30 minutes earlier than my normal morning routine requires and spend that time in prayer and in the Word, journaling. I have been reading a Lenten devotion series that has no commentary but simply gives a different passage every day to read and reflect on. I have had the pleasure of doing this “with” a dear friend – she is reading the same passages and we share our thoughts with one another. This is different than my normal “quiet time”, it is an intentional time of focusing on Jesus through the Word and also the weeding of my heart.
My husband and I have chosen to have rice and beans for dinner on Wednesday nights to intentionally remember the huge numbers of people who are poor and needy and don’t have the access to food that we do. It is very humbling. We talk about this with our children, and the need to feed the hungry. This is not fasting, it is simply an exercise in compassion and gratitude. We got the idea (which we adapted) from a devotion series that we are doing with our kiddos that is pushing us to really see others and their needs, and stop living selfish lives. It is called 30 Days of Heartwork, and it’s on the brown bible app. I don’t know its real name. (That is just a little extra!)
My husband and I have also chosen to incorporate actual fasting into this season. For us, it has looked like skipping lunch one day a week for three weeks, breakfast and lunch on that day for two weeks, and we intend to fast a whole day on the last week. We intend to use that time when we would be eating in prayer. I’ll be completely transparent, the fasting itself is easier than taking the time to be intentional in prayer. And also, I get cranky. Just being completely real. We aren’t giving up, though. We know that the Lord looks at our hearts and our motives and we are a work in progress. Don’t get discouraged if you make a plan and it doesn’t work out exactly as you thought it would. Fasting isn’t a part of our normal spiritual lives, but we know that it is all over the Bible.
The last part of my plan, other than to give to the Annie Armstrong offering, and perhaps celebrating Passover, was to find a way to bring somberness and appropriate seriousness to Good Friday. I had been looking around trying to find something, and many churches do have services that evening. In fact, I just learned that Pastor Ralph will be showing “The Passion of the Christ” in our worship center that evening. Friday, April 19 at 6:30p.m. If you have not seen it, please be aware it is very intense and you will need to make a determination if it would be appropriate for your children.
Please hear my heart. I am nothing special and I certainly do not believe I have created the perfect plan to prepare for Easter. If you have been encouraged to prepare your own heart over the next 10-12 days, and I hope you have, the Holy Spirit will guide you in how to do it. My ideas are meant to be a springboard, but they are what the Lord knew would speak to me.
One more thing, if you come to my home, you will see bunnies and eggs and when it comes to Starburst jelly beans I think I have a serious problem that might need an intervention. We have fun with all the springtime “stuff” this time of year. That stuff, as wonderful as it is, just isn’t what Easter is all about. I don’t want to miss what matters most. I don’t want to forget the price Jesus paid for me. I want to look hard into his suffering so that I can appreciate it all the more, and so that I can continue to grow a distaste for my own sin that I may be willing to get rid of it. Then, on Easter Sunday, I will celebrate with joy. I pray that you will, too.