Lent begins in less than a week. I am immersed in an annual, familiar mix of thoughts and emotions. I am exceptionally aware right now of my role as wife and mother. What will I feed these people? What guidelines will I put in place for entertainment and activities and church attendance for the next two months? When it’s 5:30 p.m., and the day has imploded around us, with everyone and everything pulling and needing and surrounding me with those questions and frustrations and wounds that only Mom can address, what will be my response? Chop that pile of vegetables, or call for pizza? When I’m exhausted and scattered and pushed to the edge of my limits, will I decide that we should all just skip Presanctified and dissolve into the numbing abyss of Netflix?
Mothers are more than keepers of the home. Mothers are keepers of the fast.
The household machine runs on whatever expectations have been set until Mom changes them, and if I so choose, I can lead them down all manner of paths. The weight of that knowledge makes me pause, as it should. Through my behavior, I can build up my family’s fast, or I can tear it to pieces. This is an awesome responsibility.
And it doesn’t have a thing to do with food…you know that, don’t you? It’s about the Lenten spirit, or lack there of. Who cares if I chop those vegetables, if I do it with a foul attitude. Food cooked with prayer tastes sweeter, and food cooked with bitterness burns with the same flavor.
If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, and if Mama isn’t traveling down the Lenten path, how quickly the rest of the family wanders. We mothers know the power we have to set the tone in our homes. We fully use it to our advantage when it comes to baby’s schedule, the little one’s play choices, and the teenager’s ever-expanding limits. We have the power. Will we use it for good this season?
So, I ask myself the question: “What will my Lenten home look like?”. Will it be peaceful like the church at the evening services, when the candles glow? Will it be soft like the embrace of prayer, when there is no beginning and no end? Or will it be the place where rules abound and grace fades? A place where the hard things are made more difficult by a short word, a wrinkled brow, and a desperate lack of joy?
It’s not hard to know what I want our Lenten home to be, the struggle comes in the process to make that happen. So, I embrace this time of preparation. For weeks, the Church has been gently reminding me and prodding me to prepare. Lent is coming. Are you ready?
Am I ready to be the mother who supports and encourages the fast of my children? Am I ready to be the wife who builds up and strengthens the fast of my husband? This is about their Lent. This is about MY Lent. I don’t need to concoct some grand scheme of exercises to grow spiritually between now and Pascha. God has given me the great gift of a Lenten school right here under my own roof. There’s no need to look anywhere else.
I pray that I will truly see it as a gift. That I will open myself to the lessons that are sure to come my way over the next few weeks. What a blessing to have these people and this place which God can use to speak to me. May we keep our fast well, Lord. With Your help, may we keep it quite well.