Four Ways To Prepare Your Family’s Heart for Easter.
Today is fat Tuesday and then the official beginning of Lent starts the next day, on Ash Wednesday. As a teen in boarding school in Ghana we had to give up something during Lent, to prepare for Easter. It was usually our snack, and I did not understand or appreciate why we had to do that. Never mind that we were supposed to be preparing our hearts and minds for Easter. I was hungry and that’s all I could think about.
Lent marks the celebration of the forty days that Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert before starting his Ministry. Most Christians mark this time, the period before Easter as a time to fast and pray and give to others less fortunate than themselves, and also to prepare their hearts for Easter. As I grew older, I realized that this period was not just to punish us or starve us but to help us draw closer to God. How can families make Lent a more meaningful preparation for Easter?
1. Decide to make time for family
Lent is a time that we can learn to be “quiet” as a family. Instead of the usual rushing around and busyness of life, it’s a good idea to have even one evening that you sit with family and reflect on why you have your traditions, and why you believe and have your faith. Why do you make sacrifices like giving up meat or fasting? Our teens will understand and not feel like their being deprived just for the sake of deprivation. Don’t make your teens feel guilty if they are not up to making the sacrifices you are making. Yours is to explain to them so that they understand and they will eventually make their own choices. Decide to make time for your family, to sit and listen to your teens. Teach them to pray. Remember Jesus always had time for little children and we should learn from him and make time for our children too.
2. Stop Worrying
I just read an article by Rick Hamlin that suggested giving up worry for Lent. I thought this was a fantastic idea. Can you as a parent imagine going forty days without worrying? But really what does worry do for us? Does it make a difference in the bottom line? Can you imagine the impact we would have on our teens if we really lived our faith and stopped worrying? I’m not saying don’t plan for the future. Of course you have to do that. But try to give up that incessant fear that something is going to go wrong. We spend so much time and energy focused on our fears and anxieties that we miss out on life itself. Learn to live one day at a time, always believing for the best and your family will be much happier for it.
3. Be charitable towards others.
Being charitable towards others could include simple things as greeting other people you meet at work, or in the gym or in church. People love it when you acknowledge them and giving even strangers a smile can brighten their day. A big one would be learning to be a little more patient with our teens, and teaching them to treat their siblings with care and respect. Talk to your teens about not complaining when doing chores around the house, and learning to give thanks for all the blessings they take for granted. Be charitable towards your spouse or partner too. Call them during the day just to see how their day is coming along, and see how happy it makes them. If possible, give up one luxury, like that coffee you enjoy and save the money and give it to your favorite charity. Remember to make time to visit your friends and relatives in nursing homes or even to call a long lost friend or relative. You will certainly make their day.
4. Be happy
Living a life of self-denial and prayer for forty days should not come with frowns and complaints like I used to do as a child. I think this a period where we have a unique opportunity to draw close to God and seek to become more like him. So be happy. Teach your teens that they don’t need all the stuff that we sometimes clutter our lives with and that they can be happy just in being who they are, and reaching out to help others, and living a life of grace.
As we prepare our hearts for Easter, let us decide to make time for family; to be still and reflect and teach your children about our faith. Let us pray and believe and give up the “luxury” of worrying. Take time to be kind to people we meet in our path, and to give to others who may not be as fortunate as we are. Let this period of preparation for Easter bring out the best in you and in your teens.
“Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.” — Aaron Saul