The 40 days of Lent and Easter Day have come and gone and I am left wondering what actions, words or deeds of mine may have exemplified to my four kids that the season is more than about chocolate and eggs and The Hunger Games.
My 10-year-old decided this year for Lent she would try fasting. I don’t know where she came up with the idea but of course I jumped all over it. We picked a day when she wouldn’t be going to the gym and when we had the flexibility to eat earlier than our usual 8 p.m. So each Wednesday of Lent, she fasted and I joined her. When she got off the bus every Wednesday afternoon and dramatically announced how hungry she was, I would suggest for her to lean on God’s strength and remember Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. But she just rolled her eyes.
Nobody else in the family talked much about Lent and nobody else (husband included) was inspired to join us in fasting. We said grace at dinner and went to church on Sundays and Wednesdays during Lent. I had every intention of involving the kid sin a crafty Ann Voskamp-like Lenten tree, or making a Grace garden during Holy Week with them.
Holy Week came and went with the kids off of school. We had a great break sleeping late, riding bikes, going to my son’s baseball games, taking care of neighbors’ dogs. But to prepare for Easter, we did none of those things. We dyed eggs.
Yes, on Good Friday we watched the Passion for the first time as a whole family – except for the really awful part I took our youngest one upstairs. I don’t know what lasting impression the movie made on the kids. We still need to have that conversation.
And speaking of conversations that need to happen. At 3 o’clock on Good Friday my 12-year-old (who is sometimes the doubting Thomas of the family) came into the office where I was working and said, “It’s 3 o’clock. Jesus is dying right now, right?” And I turned around to face her, pleasantly astonished. “Yes, that’s right,” I answered her. And she slowly walked out of the room and that was all. I turned back to the computer screen.
I think back to that moment and cringe. What a huge opportunity I missed – a cavernous opening (like the empty tomb) to talk to her about the most important moment in all of Christianity.
If I had to relive that moment – or if I were Michelle Anthony or Victoria Osteen – I would perhaps follow my daughter and sit her down and hug her and pray with her. “Jesus is dying right now for your sins and my sins. Let us together confess all our sins and then live in the joy that in three days, we are washed clean!”
But I’m just me.
Broken. Quiet. Weak. Ordinary. A lukewarm Christian.
I missed the chance to let loose what’s inside of me every morning –
joy that we’ve been given another day together as a happy, healthy family;
thankful that we have many blessings;
ashamed we have too many blessings because we take them for granted,
humbled that He gives us a new chance everyday to do His will;
hopeful that I will be His vessel and through me His light will shine.
When I was growing up – the youngest of four children – I would pipe up at the dinner table with whatever was inside me, trying to add to the conversation of my parents and older siblings. Sometimes after I said something, they would all just look at me, a sarcastic or sad look on their faces, and someone would say, “Well, you missed a good chance.”
And that meant I had missed a good chance to say something intelligent. So I grew up holding most of my chances inside me rather than facing criticism. My family also criticized people who talked too much or took too long to tell their stories. I turned into a listener.
Now, in my 46th year, I’m still a listener and not even a good one. I’m married to a great story-teller. I live vicariously through him. One of my best friends – who is so full of life and passion and energy – takes FOREVER to tell a story. But it’s always a good story, a really good story, revealing layers of emotions. She opens up so wide and allows us all in. I feel like I know her well and I adore her.
I wonder if my closest friends and family can say they know me well. I wonder how they describe me. Am I full of life and passion and energy. Does God’s light shine through me? Do they think of me and say, “She’s such a great example of God’s will?” I wish.
My fear is that nobody really knows me. I hide inside my house or myself most of the day, working on 25:40, driving the kids, grocery shopping, cleaning. I go to Bible Study Wednesday mornings and sometimes I sit there and don’t say anything. I dread the times when we have to break into groups of three or four and share what we did for Easter. I am always reluctant and last – and people either gloss over that I haven’t shared or they stare at me with eyes that say, “Umm, it’s your turn. Step up to the plate.”
My fear is that I don’t really know myself. I know what I want to be but I don’t know how to break out of my shell. Maybe I live what I want to be on the inside, but never show it – to my own children, to my family, to my neighbors, to my friends in Christ, to the world.
Jesus says in Luke 8:16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.”
Jesus has lit my lamp, but I’ve kept it hidden. Isnt’t that the ultimate sin? The ultimate slap in the face to God, to be given a treasure and then bury it?
God lights me. No longer can I hide.
After Easter I am made new.