For the past few weeks I've read blog posts, email messages from our homeschooling group, bulletin inserts, and talked to friends about ideas for celebrating Lent with our children. There have been many creative, beautiful ideas for projects to do with the kids during the forty days of Lent. I have been inundated with so many ideas I don't know where to start. I don't want to start too much and leave it undone, but I also want to do all I can to make sure my children learn that this season brings its own type of joy, joy that is not available in our mainstream culture that so often spurns any type of sacrifice.
Despite my love for Lent, I have been hesitant to commit to any projects for my children and family this Lent. I haven't even really enjoyed hearing about all these ideas. I couldn't put my finger on why I was having such trouble preparing for Lent. While these projects are beautiful, they require preparation and with Lent a week away, I need to get started. Then today as I was praying it occurred to me, I need Lent. I NEED LENT, probably more so than my kids. I couldn't decide what to do as a family because I wasn't preparing myself for the season of Lent. I can't lead my children in the pursuit of virtue until I am certain I am diligently pursuing it myself.
So here's the hard part, I am going to let you in on what I am going to do personally for Lent. If I put it out there, it means I have to really own up to it. Lately I have noticed my children speaking more and more harshly to their siblings. It's driving me crazy. There is little patience and their tongues are quick to offer some cutting comment to one another. As much as this bickering bothers me, I am more bothered by the fact that I instigated it. It is precisely my tone of voice and often my words they are using towards each other. I have even lately tried talking to the older ones about the example they are setting for the little ones. Each time I say that, a little voice in the back of my head reminds me I set the ultimate example for all the children and oftentimes it isn't a good one.
Proverbs 15:1-4 says:
A mild answer calms wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise pours out knowledge, but the mouth of fools spurts forth folly.
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse one crushes the spirit.
This sent a pang of humility deep in my heart. My children are often not answered mildly. In fact there are quite a few harsh responses. I allow the chaos and demands of life weigh on my heart and it reflects in my responses to my children.
St. Basil the Great said, "Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires, and avoiding all gossiping and swearing. To abstain from these things-- herein lies the true value of fast!"
I am going to work at speaking more kindly, especially when overwhelmed or frustrated. I am going to set the example for my children. A priest advised me to come up with a concrete punishment for myself when I speak unkindly, gargle with salt water, do push-ups, deny myself some treat. I'm going to try it and this Lenten season seems the right time to start.
*I've obviously had this post rattling around for some time. It's been busy, I've been distracted, I'm really in need of the discipline of Lent.