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Finding Freedom to Love This Lenten Season

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by Jamie Roach

Lent is not one more thing to do in the midst of an already overcrowded life but rather a way to unshackle from whatever is holding us back. Observing Lent has never been easy for me. It opposes much of American culture and typically puts me face-to-face with my own selfishness, gluttony and greed.  And still, year after year, I enter into this sacred rhythm because it has a way of setting me free. (For more on the importance of being free as a parent, check out this blog post written last year, Are you a SAFE parent?
Historically, members of Christ’s church have observed Lent by engaging in three practices given to us by Jesus (Matthew 6). Those three practices are prayer, fasting and generosity. Each practice has its own way of setting us free to be the people and parents we deeply desire to be. Let’s briefly consider each. 


Prayer is intimacy with God. I have come to think about prayer less as something I do and more as a way of being in the world. Although, it is something I do. An image that often comes to mind is the Beloved disciple with his head lying on the chest of Jesus, listening to the heartbeat of God. It is an intimate exchange between friends. When we gently place our ear next to God’s heart we hear God whispering with every beat, “you are mine and in you my soul delights.” There is incredible freedom in knowing who and whose we are; freedom to love our children unconditionally without using them to prop up our own deflated sense of self.  


Fasting is more than just abstaining from food. It is about noticing what things in your life you have come to rely on when you become stressed, depressed, anxious or bored. Fasting often leads to irritation. If we can sit with that irritation and listen, it will grace us with its many gifts. We may discover something that has snuck into our lives and subtly taken the place of God.
We may learn that somewhere along the way, we stopped looking to God for comfort and have instead turned to scrolling, food, alcohol, sex or any number of things to soothe our anxious hearts. While it’s true each of those things may bring temporary relief, they can also become a cruel taskmaster. Fasting sets us free from whatever would enslave our hearts, keeping us from the abundant life God longs to give. 


When we understand that every good thing we have comes as a gift from God (James 1:17), rather than something we earned, our hearts are filled with gratitude.  This inward sense of gratitude for God’s provision is then expressed outwardly as generosity toward others. Keeping a tight grasp on our money and possessions strangles our hearts and leads to desperation and loneliness. On the other hand, living generously expands our hearts, aligns us with God and connects us to others. Jesus was clear: It is impossible to love God and money (Matthew 6:24). Practicing generosity prevents the evil chains of greed from shackling our hearts so we can live our lives fully in connection with one another.   
Youthfront has created 40 Days of Lent, an Experiential Guide for Families to participate in this lenten season. The guide  contains a different activity for you to do with your family each day of Lent. Each practice is designed to help your family engage in prayer, fasting or generosity. There are also some questions to help your family make meaning of the experiences you do together. For the free Lent Guide, sign up for the YF Family newsletter.
This year, Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17.
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