Exploring Lent

New clothes.  Church service.  Family feast.  In my head, these traditions were an important part of celebrating Easter.  They are how my parents celebrated the holiday while I was growing up and I continued the same traditions with my own family.

My sister, Angie, and me - Easter 1970
My sweet big sister (Angie) and me – circa 1970 – in our new Easter outfits.

As an adult, however, I noticed that Easter more than once caught me off guard and I felt unprepared to celebrate it “properly.”  One year I was aghast to realize that Easter was upon us and it was too late to recognize it as I had always done.  I would have to suffer the humiliation of my kids wearing their same old church clothes on Easter Sunday (ridiculous thinking, but true – don’t judge). Last minute plans had to be made for Easter lunch.  I felt like I had dropped the ball and I was kicking myself for it. In my frustration, I commented to my husband Simon that it was a shame that there was no build up to Easter, no way to really prepare for it.

“There is,” he replied.  “It’s called Lent.”

Simon’s response was what propelled us to first explore Lent. We discussed it and decided to give this Lent thing a try the very next year.  Easter should be the most sacred and important part of the year for the believer, we thought. Why had we only passively participated in it until now? We had high hopes for the next year!

The  first year we chose to simply give up sweets for Lent. That seemed to be what everyone online suggested when I researched it, so we jumped on board that train.  It seemed like a doable first for our family of six.  And it worked! Every time we were offered a sweet treat (which was more often than we thought it would be), we were reminded that Jesus had sacrificed so much more on the cross.  We walked toward Easter with more enthusiasm that first year and with a new appreciation of it.  It was a day of celebration, of merriment, of remembrance, of gaiety, of festivity!  (And admittedly, of dessert!)

Over the years, foregoing sweet treats has morphed into a once-a-week fast for my husband and myself, but our children still choose to sacrifice sweets.  (And if you’ve ever gone a long period without any type of sweet treat, you understand what a sacrifice that truly is!)

In addition to fasting something, we began to include a devotional as part of our Lenten experience several years ago. Some years, those were personal devotionals like this* or this* or this. Other years, they were family devotionals like this.  It has been difficult, however, to consistently find devotionals that we felt we easily connected with which is why my (ahem, published) husband wrote this free Lenten devotional last year.  He is passionate about using pop culture to create Mars Hill-type experiences for the next generation and Lent became a natural avenue to do that.  Using popular movies to aid in showing the powerful significance of Easter, Emptied & Humbled is an excellent resource for understanding Christ’s sacrifice on the cross through an in-depth study of Philippians 2.

This year, we will walk toward Easter differently than in the past.  As a couple, my husband and I will look at Lent through the lens of faith. We want to be taught and challenged by the faith of those who have walked faithfully before us. We want to hold their tried-and-true faith up as a mirror and see what is reflected back. We want our faith to grow and be strengthened, ultimately becoming contagious as we walk it out in real life.  This is a self-study that I hope to share with you in the future. In addition, we are using this* as a family devotional in the evenings with our teenagers.  Written for youth, Seven Days That Changed the World is a discussion-based devotional focusing on the Biblical passages of Jesus’ life during the seven days preceding His crucifixion and (victorious!) resurrection.

Before we take our first purposeful steps on these roads to Easter this year, however, we will partake in another tradition.   A few years ago, we accidentally participated in our first Fat Tuesday celebration at Big Shucks and have since added that to our ever-expanding list of new family traditions. While Fat Tuesday doesn’t have the most pristine reputation, Simon and I decided to redeem the day and we now use it, too, as part of our preparation for Easter. (I will share more in-depth on how we redeemed Fat Tuesday next week.)

Our experience of Lent is ever-changing, always morphing to meet the needs of our family as we grow. We are enjoying the exploration of the long-honored church tradition of Lent and the opportunity it affords us to look forward toward the empty tomb.  By introducing Lent to our family, we have grown to appreciate Easter with renewed enthusiasm.  Easter no longer sneaks up on us, but is now eagerly awaited.  Through observing Lent, we now experience the build-up to Easter that I longed for years ago.  We prepare for our most sacred holiday with something more than new clothes.  There is a new eagerness, a new excitement and yearning, a new hunger, a fresh zeal for what we are truly celebrating on Resurrection Sunday.

And we have Lent to thank for that.

Shameless second shot of my big sister Angie and myself, dressed to get our Easter on, circa 1973.
And just because I couldn’t choose which picture to use, here is a shameless second shot of Angie and me ready to celebrate Easter (circa 1973). Note: Angie’s fancy dress would soon be mine. She had the best hand-me-downs a girl could ever want. Beside the point, I know, but girls get this.


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