Why Practice Lent with Children?

This post is taken from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week & Eastertide. Lent begins on March 5 with Ash Wednesday—we hope you’ll join us on this journey!

Lent is the season of the divine paradox. We must die to live. While the previous seasons of the church year burst with life, Lent brings us firmly to our deaths. Lent teaches us that the path of wholeness comes through sacrifice. Jesus himself said that we must die to live. Nature echoes this paradox. Seeds must die to live. Stars die to birth galaxies. It is the way of creation, and we are created. If we live in a constant state of indulgence we will never live a whole life. When we deny ourselves, die to our wants and needs, wholeness seeps into us and we live. Lent is our salvation from the superfluous.

It seems Christmastide and Advent, with all their indulgences, are seasons custom made for children, but what about Lent?

What do we do with children and death? Aren’t we to teach them to live?

Herein lies the paradox. It is our job to teach them to live, but they must learn to die to themselves in order really to live. They must learn to die to having their own way, and they must learn to give what they have in order to receive what God has for them. We are to teach them to love themselves. The next step is to teach them to give up their lives.

However, we cannot hope for that change in our children until we, their parents and teachers, embrace it ourselves. We teach them to die, by dying ourselves.

So we also make a way for death. We clear the path, clean the space, and set our houses in order. That is what we do during Lent, as we participate in the three disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving. Together these disciplines do what we cannot do. They clear the path, clean the space and set our houses in order so that God can bring death and then wholeness.

With all this death talk we may think we must walk around with sour looks on our faces. Not us, the people of God—the paradox kicks in, and we are joyful. Love makes Lent joyful. What we do, we do out of love for God and for neighbor.

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