Wingnut Jr. and I went to Mass together on Sunday, just the two of us (we have sick kids again, so Wingnut and I divided and conquered). It was nice to have the chance to talk to him a little about the homily and about his plans for Lent. We let our children choose their own Lenten sacrifices, with a little guidance. Our conversation went a little like the following:
Me: So have you been thinking about what you might give up for Lent this year? You should think about making a "real" sacrifice, something that is a little hard to give up.
Boy: Yep. I was thinking I would give up Sweet Tarts.
Me: Uh, do you really think that is a meaningful sacrifice? I mean, how often do you really have Sweet Tarts that it would be a real sacrifice to give them up? And what's to stop you from choosing Skittles or Sour Patch Kids to replace the Sweet Tarts? Do you see what I'm saying?
Boy: Yeah. I guess I should give up all candy then.
Me: Well, that would be a bit more of a sacrifice. You know what I try to do is to choose something that I use or have or do most every day. Something that might keep me from becoming closer to God, even. It might even be something which I could say, "Hey, I might actually love this more than I love God if I'm not careful." Candy is a good choice, but you might even think about giving up video games. That would be a tough sacrifice.
Boy: Yeah. I guess so. That would be a good one. So I might give up candy or video games.
Thinking I had made some good progress with the six year old, I proudly told Wingnut about the gist of our conversation and then asked Wingnut Jr. again what he was thinking about.
"Yeah, I'm giving up Sweet Tarts for Lent!" he proudly declared.
Lent is tough. It is hard to give up things we love. I believe it has become increasingly difficult for privileged Americans to embrace the idea of sacrifice. We have a very difficult time understanding what good sacrifice even brings. I think, because our children know so little of suffering themselves, it is extremely difficult for them to even understand what it really is. Of course, Lenten sacrifice is not about making ourselves suffer needlessly. It is about drawing closer to God.