Lent: A Letter to a Friend
(Otherwise known as “Minding Your Business”
c. Spring 2002
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder
When I was a Sunday School Superintendent, and teacher of an age-integrated class, I had the opportunity to talk with the kids (ages 4-15) about the Season of Lent. As you know, this is the time Christians celebrate as the Prelude to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Traditionally, Christians chose to ‘give up’ something they value in honor of the sacrifice the Christ made. The kids asked me what importance this tradition had to their lives. I suggested that, by denying something they loved, perhaps they would find it easier to turn down something tempting that would only bring them grief, such things as fighting with their siblings, participating in parties their friends had, shoplifting from the local store…that sort of thing. They listed their vices, and their favorites, and then decided which of the delightful, delicious things in their lives they could bear to part with for forty days. We talked, too, about how we could support one another’s choices. Praying was an option, talking to someone, sending each other notes. It was an interesting season. The class talked about how they felt, the temptation, the desire, the frustration, the guilt if they broke their commitment ‘just this once’. We talked about how we felt about each other. And in the end of the Time of Trial, we also celebrated the victories. The pride and renewed sense of self-confidence of those who had made it through was evident on their faces and in their voices. Those who had ‘failed’ were forgiven and encouraged to try again. Together, we celebrated the Resurrection, the gifts of renewal and new life. It was Easter, after all.
Which brings me to this.
I’ve been thinking about your life these days and thought maybe I’d meddle enough to send you a ‘note’ of support during the Season of Lent that is going on in your family. See, from my perspective, I see you as a responsible, caring, loving, adoring parent, daughter, teacher, friend. I also witness your frustration, fear, uncertainty, sorry as you work through the transitions of life among your family – your folks, your children, your beloved, and the energy you devote to your profession. You not only are supportive of the people to whom you are related, but also to those of us who are honored to be among your colleagues. I see you maintaining your cool, relieving your stress quietly, professionally. I wonder if things are handled this way at home.
I have been speculating how you might be feeling after the most recent event involving The Evil Car and your daughter. I think one of the hardest things about parenting is realizing that no matter what or how a child is taught, inevitably, they turn out to be themselves. It may have been you who carried this child, nursed her, fed, clothed, and sheltered her, disciplined her, played with and loved her. And no matter what you did to try to guide her and encourage her to make the ‘right’ decisions, she is still herself, and will make the choices she will.
Where am I going with this rambling? And what does it have to do with Lent? It’s like this. Yes, your daughter may break your heart by being disobedient to you. She may appall you by breaking the laws of the state. You may think her dim-witted for risking her life and the lives of her friends. You may just be extremely frustrated that she has managed, by her actions, to throw a wrench into an already uncertain car situation. But she has also expressed some pretty powerful personality traits, characteristics that I, personally, admire. This child of yours is not afraid to take risks, not afraid to defy authorities she disagrees with, is considerate of her friends, and trusts your love. In her Season of Lent, she has chosen to give up the comfort of her childhood in your home. In her Season of Lent, she has chosen to experiment with personal choices that may cause her to lose privileges, as well as your trust and respect. This takes courage. She has also risked the value of your love for her. She may be a young woman, but she still needs to know whether or not you love her. Or, now that she is maturing, are you just relieved that she won’t be ‘your responsibility’ any longer? Among her peers are youth whose parents wouldn’t even notice she had taken the car, let alone given her rules to follow. Among her peers are those whose parents wouldn’t have gone to the accident site, let alone shown up with hearts full of fear and concern. Among her friends are those whose boundaries are so far removed from the family unit that they would not have bothered to call home. Your daughter has risked giving up you, not donuts, not chocolate, not their cell phone – you, her mother and her friend, just to see if she could. And she can’t.
With my lecturing finger at the ready, I tell you that you have done a fantastic job as a parent. This daughter of yours is a strong-willed, independent thinker – a rare commodity among today’s youth. This daughter also feels safe within your family; this feeling safe within a family is also rare. I am not suggesting you not discipline her. If you didn’t, it would defeat the purpose of her whole enterprise. But, (I say as I waggle my finger at you), you may not discipline yourself. No late-night murmurings about what you ‘should’ have done, what you ‘could’ have done. You are doing what seems to be one of your best traits: you love your family.
Your children will continue to be who they are, just like you will continue to be who you are. During this Season, I would offer you what support I can. It is my way to meddle, you see, and to mind your business.
Stand strong in the desert places. Reject what is false. Suffer through the long, lonely night. Forgive the denial. Rise.
Kids, after all, are only lent.
With prayers, hugs, and love,