Lent: Fitting our lives into God

Brian Beckstrom
02/28/2013

Lent: Fitting our lives into God

"Community" a sculpture by Kirk Newman in Toronto.

Since becoming a father I have developed a much deeper appreciation for Lent. This time of preparation is an oasis in the otherwise frantic schedule of a family with two working parents and two very active kids.

Not that observing Lent is an easy commitment for a busy family. This year my son has basketball practice on Wednesday nights in the early evening and my daughter has gymnastics later on. This puts us in a difficult position as parents. How do we balance the competing values of sports and the church year?

By no means do we have it figured out. But at least for the time being we've decided that Lenten devotions and worship are a non-negotiable. We think that participation in these practices shapes us as disciples of Jesus in significant ways.

But this year for the first time we are worshiping at different times. I take our daughter to the early Wednesday evening service while our son is at practice. My wife picks him up and takes him to the late service as I'm taking my daughter to her practice. We usually get to wave to each other in the parking lot but that's about it.

I don't know yet if this is a good solution. Sometimes I feel like we're giving up too much in this arrangement but only time will tell.

Years ago I was talking with someone about the difficulties of being a person of faith in a culture that values busyness. He shared with me a question that he used to evaluate his life. He said, "I always ask myself am I fitting God into my life, or am I fitting my life into God?" He went on to explain that when we simply try to fit God into our lives, faith can become just another add on, one more thing on a to-do list that seems never ending. But when we fit our lives into God we begin with faith at the center, and everything else becomes an add-on. This forces us to do two important things. First of all to ask tough questions about whether the things we spend our time doing are really as important as they seem. But secondly it can also allow us to reframe the ordinary moments of our lives as sacred moments.

This has been an important realization for me. One of my temptations is to treat faith as an all or nothing thing. To see decisions like whether to allow our kids to attend athletic practices during Lent as a choice between faith and cultural accommodation. But this year I'm realizing that seeing things that way can obscure the sacred moments that emanate from a centered faith.

We may not be worshiping together as a family during Lent as I'd prefer. But the 20 minutes that my daughter and I spend together in the car after worship on the way to gymnastics is sacred time. We have an opportunity to have conversations about faith in new and deeper ways.

How about you? What challenges does Lent pose to your busy life? How have you responded?

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Brian A.F. Beckstrom is campus pastor at Wartburg College, an ELCA college in Waverly, Iowa.

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