The Nails of Lent

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Lenten sacrifices for children have been pretty varied in our home over the years. We’ve worked with them in order to give up candy, to do a chore every day, pray extra prayers and so forth. This year was no different, yet it brought real depth of how they are giving, and is going to make Easter that much more of a great celebration.

On Fat Tuesday we took a moment at dinner.

We began discussing what each child around the dinner table would sacrifice during these 40 days of Lent. My Thinker was creative in her choice; she decided to break a very difficult habit for her, 8 years in the making. She is determined to stop biting her nails.

I applauded her choice as it will force her to think before acting, and conquer a frequent habit of hers. It will build her will power and confidence in her own ability to overcome such a long standing tendency. Easter just might bring some nail polish as a great surprise for her efforts and long nails!

My Knight, Serious and Entertainer all have the same sacrifice this year. Being ages nine, eight and seven, we encouraged them in relinquishing their favorite snuggle blanket at bedtime, to be put into each of their baby bins, as a reminder of moving on through life’s stages.

All three have become so attached to these nighttime snuggle aids, that they were sure they’d never fall asleep again! Determined to support their Lenten sacrifice, I assured them all, they would indeed fall asleep,…..blankie or no.

The past few days have been especially difficult for Entertainer, as she begged me to give her one more night with her tattered purple blankie. She remarked how she missed the smell of it, the feel of it on her cheek and the comfort it brought.

Her tears were quick as she begged for her blanket, and I nearly gave in. It was heart wrenching to see her suffer. But I knew she would mature and rise to this challenge. I asked her, “Honey, how hard do you think it was for Jesus to die on the cross?”

She said with a weak voice, “Yes, I know, very hard.”

“Yes, so Jesus knows exactly how hard it is to let go of your baby blanket. And He loves how you are sacrificing this for Him. Think of every day without your blanket is one more thorn you take from his crown of thorns, or perhaps a nail from his hand.”

She nodded quietly and walked away, wiping her tears.

I sat and thought.

So many of the Lenten sacrifices we make, even as adults can be so difficult, especially if it’s something that we truly enjoy, or it brings a kind of comfort. These things in life aren’t all bad, or bad for us, however, at times, we do start to depend on them.

It can begin a kind of reliance on these things so much that then, we can’t live without them. And this is what I work to teach my children. Every now and again, it’s good to give up those things we think we can’t live without, even if it’s simply to prove the point that it’s possible. Sometimes, we need to prove it to ourselves, in order to try at other things in life, which seem impossible.

In a world that can fill every desire, that can suit every need instantly, Lent can become a time to learn not only patience, but self-denial. As parents we must take the time to explain these things, the ‘why’ of such a season of Lent, and just today I had this opportunity as my Knight came home after school with a slight conflict with another, younger boy.

My Knight explained how on a team sport, one of the players wasn’t playing his position, leaving his designated spot for more aggressive action. When my Knight, the team captain, tried to correct this younger boy, and instruct him of his defensive role, this young boy made it clear he was going to do what he wanted to do, and that was that.

My Knight didn’t understand, “Mom, how will we win if we don’t work as a team?”

I know this young boy that my son had trouble with. He’s a good kid, generally speaking, however lacking in team building skills, as well as friendship skills. “Honey, he is younger than you, you know, he hasn’t learned how to play as a team. And sometimes, playing as a team, means a little self-denial. He’ll learn that, give him time.”

Lent can have a way to teach children many lessons……being less materialistic, less reliant on our comfort items, to rely on God, to pray more, to deny thy self…which can all translate in many life situations. But it does take time to teach the importance of these liturgical seasons so they, too can see, how learning these skills and virtues can help them in the long run. It builds a kind of conviction in them, and builds a kind of inner strength that the world could never give.

It builds a moral conviction, a depth. And this is what the world yearns for, even if people don’t know it. Real inner work to unit ourselves with God, during a time, such as Lent, brings us back to the real humanity we all are. We recognize our weaknesses, our attachments, and our sin. Once seeing ourselves for who we truly are, a real humility, we can then make practical steps to strengthen our resolve, to be better.

So let us all, be the first examples to our children of real and lasting change this Lenten season. May this Lent be truly fruitful for you, to have conquered what perhaps you thought impossible.

Just like my eleven year old daughter, seeing her own weakness, and working to correct herself for long, beautifully polished and painted fingernails, we too, can use the nails of Jesus’ suffering to be transformed!

Copyright 2012 Sahmatwork

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