Lenten Parenting

As it turns out, just showing up is often frowned upon in our culture. It is standard to bring something to a dinner party, to doll yourself up for a night out with friends, to prep for a meeting, to study for the test, to train, to rehearse, to do something before you get to wherever you are going.  I can recall one hectic Sunday in which some of my kids were still in their PJ's, hair unbrushed, faces smeared with breakfast, mucus, perhaps some tears, others in sports clothes and just as unkempt, and I probably looked like I had just returned from hours in the coop, when we finally slid into the back row of the church, several minutes late. One older man, a deacon in the church, eyed us with what seemed like utter disgust. Clearly, we were not "church-ready" by his standards. And while I know God doesn't impose those same human conditions on our outwardly self, that feeling that surged through me is unforgettable: one of judgement, of disdain and shame. I wanted to yell at him, tell him he had no idea what the last hour had been like for us, that we were just lucky to have made it at all, and that we NEEDED to be here as much as anyone, possibly more. Instead, I quietly prayed that both our hearts would be softened and mended. And then offered him the passing of the peace. Clearly he needed it as much as I did.      

So as I was thinking about Lent, it occurred to me (on Fat Tuesday) that if I was going to make the effort to show up for this season of preparation, and I wanted my family to tag along on the forty day journey, that I might actually need to put something together this time.

At any rate, I called the pastor at our former church in Minnesota. (In and of itself, calling to ask for help points to growth at least somewhere in my life! Ooooh, the vulnerability!) I guess my hope was that maybe they had some little family devotional e-book that they could simply email me. No such luck. (But not a bad idea for any church if you ask me!) Nonetheless, the conversation was affirming and renewing and lifted my spirits. And it assured me that I was on the right track at some level.

By mid-day on Ash Wednesday, I finally made my way to Google and found some good free resources.....right after ordering a bunch of family devotionals on Amazon. (Admittedly, my timing is not always what it should be.)

Anyway, I found that by piecing the two free devotionals together, we had something worthwhile to guide us through the rawness of Ash Wednesday, and the whole mess beyond.

That night, we read from Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve and their partaking of the fruit and their eyes being opened to everything. (Poor souls!) And we stopped at the point where God's strolling along and calls out to them: "Where are you?"

Well, that is where I stopped it anyway.....the devotional carried on to consequences and such but I could not get past the fact that even though God knew what had happened, he still searched for them, called for them, beckoned them forward....like any loving parent, He still wanted to be in relationship with His children, no matter how strained it had become.

And so I explained to my family that God is searching for us, too, calling us by name, asking us to show up, wherever and however we are. Even now.

It also occurred to me that this story resonated with me on an entirely different level. You see, God set a rule for his naive children, then took his eyes off of them for like two seconds, didn't bother to vet the company that they kept (darn serpent) and then came back, only to find that they had been disobedient (uh, duh....) And while they were busy pointing fingers at each other (well, you know, except for the serpent who didn't have fingers to point!), he totally freaked out on them.....condemning them to a life of pain, suffering, toil, sweat, bread-eating and finally DEATH. I mean, really! Kind of overkill God, don't ya think? Sheesh. (First time parents....)

But we can glean a lot from this story. I mean, even God felt like inflicting suffering on his children in the name of consequences. I get that. I really do. Which is why next time my kids fall out of line I am just going to calmly repeat in my most ominous voice: "You are dust and to dust you shall return." And then lock them all out of the house.

Hey, if it's good enough for God.....

Day one. We showed up.

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