A week before Ash Wednesday: Ella ,7, announces that she is going to give up television for the whole of lent. I am extremely impressed and promise to join her of course.
Day 3 of lent- Ella is not at all sure this was such a good idea- brother Charlie is also less than impressed with the absence of telly.
By the weekend: Ella has modified her fast to week days only... I am in a quandry- the discipline lent has to be a personal response to God and yet I am unhappy to allow her to quit so early on. I try to walk the line of gentle persuasion and firm reminders of her original intention but to no avail...
End of week one- the television fast unceremoniously bites the dust... I am a bit gutted.
Week 2: Ella is given a sheet of 40 things to do in lent. These include giving a weeks pocket money to charity, buying one fairtrade thing a week, not arguing for 3 days, cheering someone up, etc. This is proving to be an inspiration to her and I wonder if it is actually producing more real fruit in her relationship with God and her sense of faith-in-action. The first day of no arguing is a revelation- she is not only avoiding arguments but looking for ways to help her siblings have fun and stay happy. I know 7 year olds can't not argue forever, but I feel that living this day in itself must change her and open her eyes to what is possible.
She gives away 2 weeks' pocket money and an encouraging letter to someone at church who is raising money for a trip to Zimbabwe. A girl who was being nasty to her at school and that she has prayed for now wants to come to tea and sleepover. Ella says that underneath she is actually really nice.
I am left pondering the true meaning of fasting and I think about Isaiah 58. I know the discipline and humbling oneself symbolised in the Lenten fast is an important part of our growth as Christians. But maybe I am seeing a different side of fasting- still denying oneself, still saying "not my will, but Yours"...