Lent has consistently been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember but the truth is I’ve been through a lot of Lenten seasons that just completely missed the point. Where do I start? From overcomplicating and then underperforming to not making my intentions as personal as they should be, I’ve ended my fair share of Lenten seasons performing out of obligation coupled with negative feelings of guilt and shame (ouch).
The season of Lent has also gotten even harder as a mom.
Lent has three pillars: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving
The thing about all of these is that they require time, quiet, and preparation: all of which can feel impossible to add to the spinning plates of family life. When I started to look at what was and wasn’t working, I realized that I wasn’t taking the time to make it deeply personal to me and my family.
Lent is supposed to be a struggle.
My biggest question was this:
How can I cast down the feeling of obligation, rebuking all the self prescribed negative feelings and learn to struggle well with my family this year?
The true beauty of this season is in the struggle.
The Lord doesn’t delight in how well you adhered to the “rules” that you set for yourself on Ash Wednesday. He delights in your weakness and my friend, the weaker we are, the closer we grow in relationship with Him.
The point of fasting is that you are intentionally denying the flesh something that is so instinctual or automatic that it evokes a physical response and we have to consciously choose to replace it with something spiritual. A lot of people chose to fast from certain food groups. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, I think if it feels appropriate for you and if you feel like it helps you rely on Him in your hunger.
Think about it as taking a withdraw from earthly tendencies and making a deposit in eternity.
What is something that is creating space between you and Him?
Maybe you fast from negative self talk and believing the lie that you’re not good enough
Maybe you fast from giving into fear of the future
Maybe you fast from talking about other people
If you don’t know what that thing is for you, ask the Lord to reveal it to you! Ask Him to show you areas that you’re guarding from Him or relying on your earthly strength. Fasting doesn’t work if it’s not personal.
And then here’s the key: have a plan.
These personal struggles don’t go away just because you chose to fast from them (here’s where I’ve failed in years past). You have to choose to combat them. When you’re slipping into the spiral of worry or gossip, or obsessing over food: CALL IT OUT and then proclaim gospel truth over it.
This can look like:
“Lord, I’m choosing to fast from the lie that I’m not good enough. Rid me of these negative words that I’m speaking against myself and remind me who created me, that you’re well pleased with your creation, and that I am who YOU say I am, not who I say I am. Amen.”
Give it to Him every single time it comes up, whether it’s once a day or 100 times a day.
Almsgiving is all about compassion. It’s about taking on the needs of others as your own.
As moms we should have a certificate of clinical expertise in this.
Think of charity less as another activity to schedule and more as way to thank God for the blessings He has given us, and offer those to other people.
This can be monetary like committing to increasing your donation at church, choosing to sponsor a child, or finding a charity that means something to you and contributing.
Charity also doesn’t just mean money. It can also be the giving of your time and involving your family!
What makes sense for you and your family?
I think the thing to realize is that in some way, everyone is needy.
We can take on other people’s needs through committing to pray for them, through letting the car go in front of us, or maybe just through taking the time to offer a listening ear and support to a friend.
Without prayer, the fasting and charity that we do comes more from obligation or feeling like we ought to rather than letting those actions take hold and transform us spiritually. Are you feeling stale in one of these areas? Don’t ignore or feel guilty about it- bring it to God!
When we fast, we get strength from God through prayer.
When we give to those that are in need, we can transform their lives as well as ours not just through physical actions but through spiritual hope.
How can you incorporate prayer into your day more?
A game changer for me has been my morning light routine. I wake up in the morning and before I know what time it is or which kid snuck in the bed and is currently jabbing me in the rib with their foot: prayer. Because I don’t have a ton of time, I need my prayers to be short, sweet, and to the point.
This usually looks like “Lord, thank you so much for this day. I’m so happy to be alive today and I pray that You take hold of my day and that Your will be done for my life and those that I love. Help me to be patient, present, and peace-filled today and when I’m not those things, help me to lean my full weight on You for strength so that I may bring glory to Your name in everything that I do. Amen.”
Let Jesus be at the start of your day, reach out to Him all day long, find a devotional that speaks to your heart. Then, involve your family.
Pray in the car on the way to school and before bed. Share with your children how He’s in every part of our day. When the sunshine hits their little faces, we give thanks. In the hard, we ask for help leaning on God and direction.
When we make it personal and all do Lent together the struggling turns into rejoicing. The shift happens when we take our earthly weakness and rely completely on God’s heavenly strength.
I want to leave you with this: If you take the time to examine your heart and ask for direction so that this season will be meaningful for you and your family, God will not lead you astray. If you lean on Him in your weakness, He will show up.