February 11, 2018
Sadie Wohlfahrt, Children’s Minister
I love Lent! (How many people say that?)
I really do. I love the opportunity to reflect on my relationship with Christ, and try out new ways in which I can draw closer to Him.
One way we focus on drawing closer to Christ during lent is through the spiritual practice of fasting. However, the practice is often misunderstood. I have talked with many well-meaning Christians who are really, really good at sacrificing something; but that “something” doesn’t always end up drawing them any closer to God. It seems we often forget that second, super-duper important element of the fast. What we sacrifice- what we fast from- is intentionally removed to make more space, time, and energy for the Lord. We take breaks from vices and activities, because by doing so, we then make more room for prayer, study, worship, service, small group discussion, and meditation.
I know a lot of friends who give up chocolate or fried foods or beer or red meat or any other combination of unhealthy foods. And while that is certainly noble from a nutrition standpoint (our bodies are a temple after all), I am not 100% certain that chocolate is the thing in your life that is keeping you distant from Christ. (I don’t know- maybe you just really have a thing for Snickers.)
To that end, let’s talk about those things in our lives that we can sacrifice, which may in fact be hindering a closer relationship with God- and discuss how life might look without those things in it for 40 days. Since I am the minister to children and families, I will focus particularly on those vices and activities which most impact them.
The following is a list of ideas- and ideas only. I want us to ponder. I want us to pray. I want us to imagine. That’s why they each start with “What if?” As you read, listen for the Holy Spirit. Pay attention to the nudges. See where they lead.
What if we fasted from television (including video games) in the evenings? I know, I know- I hear you. Especially you parents of preschoolers. “How will I get the dishwasher unloaded? Pack the lunches? Sign the permission slips? How will I get a second to breathe?” I am right there with you! Without Daniel Tiger or Doc McStuffins, I don’t know that anyone in my house would ever wear clean shirts or eat from a clean plate. BUT- I can’t help but think, if I start new routines that don’t include a screen, what kinds of wonderful things might we have more of? More reading? More imaginative play? More art? More helping mommy with all those chores?? (Wishful thinking.)
What if we fasted from gossip and judgmental statements? And yes, I am talking to the adults here. Whether we think our children are listening or not, I promise they are. And they absolutely know when we are speaking ill of others- even if we think we are being sly. Whether you are right in what you are saying, is not really the point. A statement can be very true, and still very judgmental. Or gossipy. Or both! If we absolutely must say something negative about another person (sometimes we just gotta vent to another adult), can we save those conversations for after bedtime? Just a thought.
What if we fasted from using social media when our children are in the room? I will never forget the time my son was 2 ½, looking over my shoulder at my phone as I mindlessly scrolled. He asked me, “Mommy, are you wooking at your fwends?” My heart sank. No- my heart turned to green slime. Green, gooey, guilt-slime. Why was I looking at my “friends” when I could be focusing on him? What are we missing out on, when we zone out? What could we replace this with? What can we do differently with our time?
What if we fasted from hectic mornings? Okay, this takes some prep work. And a lot of prayer! But remember- I am right there with you! School starts at 7:25. To beat traffic, I have to be out of the house by 7:05. I have three tiny mouths to feed, three wiggly bodies to dress, a car that is parked outside (and must be scraped and warmed up this time of year), three seat belts to buckle, and a husband who lives in another state. If anyone knows how hectic mornings can be, it’s me. Let’s be real here- I am a representative of the church, and I still sometimes shout and growl, and toss coats and shoes and sometimes bagels, in the general direction of my children. And then I still end up at work in two different socks and no mascara. How can I make mornings more peaceful? (Spoiler alert- it’s that prep work and prayer I mentioned above, plus an even earlier alarm, a lot of dry shampoo, and lots more coffee.)
What if we fasted from fast food? I said earlier that sacrificing food for the sake of health may not necessarily get to the nitty gritty of the spiritual practice, but hear me out. What if we fasted from eating at restaurants not just to avoid the extra calories, sodium, and chemicals but because the family table is the healthiest place for our children both physically and spiritually? Jesus was really big on gathering around the table. Current science on children’s development is also really big on it. If we want well-rounded, emotionally secure, socially-intelligent adults, it all begins with family supper when they’re children. As one of the world leaders in children’s ministry recently said, “We have a generation of children with holes in their hearts because family dinner is a thing of the past.”
(FYI- I will be hosting a cooking class for busy parents on March 4th at 4pm if you’d like to get the lowdown on healthy, tasty, and quick recipes that kids love! Email me to RSVP- childcare provided!)
As you read the list, did anything nudge you? As I tell my middle school students in confirmation, the Holy Spirit often speaks to us through “a-ha” or “uh-oh” feelings. Maybe it is speaking to you now?
Let’s think about how, by being more Christ-like to our children, we can draw closer to Christ ourselves. The Lord has entrusted us with the very greatest gift- that of children- and within that, has asked us to continually strive for Godly homes.
Grace. Grace. Grace,