Celebrate Lent As A Family

Lent begins this week. The observance of Lent reminds us to prepare our lives for the coming Christ. Traditionally, people observe Lent by practicing some sort of fasting (giving something up), generous compassion toward others (justice), and prayer (communion with God). To me, this sounds like a great opportunity to practice grace in our family as well as in the world at large. Grace begins with giving others the gift of acceptance. It builds to giving to others, and culminates in giving ourselves up for the benefit of others. What better place to learn and practice grace than in our family? With that in mind, I wanted to offer you a calendar of daily ideas for observing Lent with your family. The Family Lent Calendar focuses on aspects of grace (giving acceptance, giving of ourselves, and self-sacrifice) as we prepare for Easter.

The Family Lent Calendar (like grace) begins with giving up our pride so we can give the gift of unconditional acceptance. As a family, we learn to accept one another just as Christ accepted us (Romans 15:7). Christ accepted us (and even engaged in self-sacrifice for us) while we were still helpless disappointments who engaged in activities that set us at enmity with Him (Romans 5:6-10). Don’t get me wrong, He still convicts us of wrong behavior and disciplines us. However, in the midst of that teaching, conviction, and discipline He accepts us. He continues to come alongside of us and show us kindness. Since we have experienced Christ’s acceptance, we practice accepting one another. Family offers a great training ground for this type of unconditional acceptance. In fact, if we cannot learn to accept our family, how can we accept those outside of our family? For this reason, the Family Lent Calendar begins with accepting one another.

Acceptance sets the stage for grace, but grace quickly moves to giving, especially giving of ourselves. As a result, the Family Lent Calendar includes giving our time, attention, and energy to one another. Family helps us learn to generously give our full attention to others without distraction or selfish motive. We learn to give the energy necessary to share the burden of sorrowful emotions and the celebration of joyful emotions within the family. Family provides us the opportunity to invest our time and energy in sharing accountability, forgiveness, and deep connection.

Grace not involves giving of ourselves, it also includes giving ourselves up. Self-sacrifice is the pinnacle of grace. Each time we graciously give of ourselves, we practice some level of self-denial. I sacrifice “my desires” to benefit “us” as a family. I give up “my time” in order to invest that time in “our” family. I give up some of “my availability” to sports games, work, or music in order to remain available to “our” family. Studies suggest that families that willingly sacrifice for one another grow more intimate, share more joy, and experience more long-term stability. A level of self-denial contributes to healthy family life. The Family Lent Calendar makes several suggestions to help you offer this level of grace to one another in the family.

I hope you will review the Family Lent Calendar. Even if you do not use the whole calendar, consider the ideas on the calendar and implement some in your family this Easter season. As you do, you will prepare yourself and your family for Easter by sharing grace—acceptance, generous giving, and self-denial.

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