Faced with a wall of chocolate bunnies in Coles my immediate impulse is to knock the head off one and devour it.
We’re still almost two weeks out from Easter Sunday and my eldest daughter, with whom I’ve undertaken a “sugar fast” for Lent Event, would be pretty horrified. The younger one would probably be a willing accomplice.
It’s tricky talking to children about Lent. On the one hand we’ve tried to make it all quite concrete by being involved in Lent Event which is a fantastic concept: embracing the idea of living simply, “giving things up” so that we can clear our minds, reflect on Jesus’ time in the wilderness and relate to people who live with less. On the other, it’s understandable that a legalistic approach might create a “Thank God that’s over!” kind of fervour to rival anything Jesus could come up with on Easter Sunday.
Lent Event’s call to act, reflect and connect aims to strike a balance – helping us all realise that a ‘break’ from a world devoted to excess is important, introducing us to the lives of partners living in challenging situations around the world, encouraging us to make practical sacrifices that will fund clean water, schools, training health workers and peace building projects. It aims to help us line up our heads, hearts and hands the way Jesus did as he walked this earth 2000 years ago.
But no one said it would be easy. Our eight year old finds stories of need incredibly sad. Asking me how I’ve spent my day, her face falls when I tell her I’ve been writing about children who, instead of playing or going to school, spend their lives picking the cocoa beans that we use in our chocolate.
“Don’t tell me mum, it’s just too sad,” she says.
She brightens a little when I tell her that buying Fair Trade chocolate makes a difference, encouraging chocolate makers to treat farmers fairly and paying a wage that will mean children have the chance to go to school. Later, she’s likely to dump her life savings on the kitchen table to give to Syrian or South Sudanese refugees. And giving up sweet biscuits or apple juice, while difficult, is a daily reminder of what it’s like to go without.
Our twelve year old has become passionately committed, partly because she’s been with us to India and seen both the kilometres of confronting human need and the hope to be found in small villages where schooling is lighting up faces and offering the real prospect of employment. With friends, she’s taken part in studies and games provided for young people that explore the concept of why poverty exists and why Lent is a good time for people to stand with our partners overseas. Not for her the bunny hunt. Not yet, anyway.
As parents, we don’t want our children to simply ‘pray’ or ‘give’ to people who struggle with poverty. As in Jesus’ life and so many others, we want them to be unafraid to sit beside those who’ve been tossed aside by the rest of society, regarding their future as somehow bound up together with their own. It’s a constant struggle in a world hell-bent on creating divisions and neatly compartmentalising everything. But we believe that being part of a Uniting Church is a helpful part of breaking down the barriers and that participating in Lent Event is formative in the development of their spiritual lives. Talking about the issues, struggling with our own thoughts and feelings, being inspired by others, getting it wrong – that’s life.
For now, the bunnies are safe… but with two weeks to go, I can’t promise we won’t falter. I’m not sure that it’s the main game anyway, to be honest. Even if we don’t do it perfectly, it’s all part of a journey toward a much bigger picture of active love and justice within God’s world. For us, that’s what really matters.
Want to know about Lent Event? Check it out here
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