Easter is our destination not Lent!

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21 Mar 2018

Conversations with a five-year-old daughter newly aware of Lent.

The day after Ash Wednesday my five-year-old daughter asked me from the back seat of the car ‘is Lent finished yet?’ I chuckled and said ‘not yet, Lent is a rather long time, it’s a journey.’ She asked, ‘well when will it be finished?’ I realized that answering her in terms of time wouldn’t really help her as the concept of days, weeks and months is still fairly fluid in her reality. In the end she came up with an answer that satisfied her question. ‘It would be over when it was Easter,’ she concluded. This answer seemed enough for her and I liked the idea of looking at Lent not as a passage of time but as a journey towards Easter.

As this has been the first year our eldest daughter has shown any sign of awareness of Lent, it has been a new experience for my husband and I to search for how we explain and pass on the journey of ‘living Lent’. My experience of parenthood has been one that has often led me to ponder ‘what do I really believe?’ and ‘what do I want to pass on?’ As my children grow and move into different stages of life, my values and practices are given a Spring Clean as I search for a more authentic understanding of the truth I seek to pass on.

Explaining Lent has been no different. Our entry point into the subject went the usual way as we talked about the idea of fasting and sacrifice. She quickly grasped hold of the idea of ‘giving something up’ and announced boldly that she would give up electronics and ice cream. This needed to be reviewed after the first day, however, when it became apparent she had bitten off more than she could chew!

We decided to have a chat about how giving up things needed to be practiced and it was not something that would come automatically and that perhaps it might be better to start by trying to give up those things two days a week rather than every day. My experience of being a parent to a child who was trying to understand how to live the Lenten journey led me to think about how God the Father might parent us through that same journey. I reflected on what the Father might want to be teaching me about Easter as I move through Lent.

The Church, in her wisdom, has given us some clues to help us. It encourages us to embark on a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, but for me Lent comes alive when I sit quietly with God, who is a loving Father, and ponder what prayer, fasting and almsgiving mean in my daily life and the events and circumstances before me. In this way, every Lent offers the opportunity to be different and new with the promise of ushering forth a new resurrection in the parts of my life that have become lifeless. Lent becomes the fertile ground to receive the new life that Easter promises. It is an invitation to believe that whilst fasting is the call of Lent, feasting is the call of Easter and as my 5-year-old daughter reminded me, Easter is our destination not Lent!

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