The Liturgical Home: Fasting as a Family

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Lent is a pilgrimage of the soul, an opportunity to walk closely with the Lord in a path of repentance and renewal. From the ashes of Ash Wednesday to the glory of Easter Sunday, Lent is a beautiful narrative of redemption that echoes the enduring love of God and his unwavering desire to draw us closer, refine us, and restore us to our true purpose.

Walking through Lent challenges our prevailing culture of instant gratification, urging us to reflect, confront our weakness, and welcome the grace and mercy of the Lord. This powerful season prepares us to meet Easter with genuine joy, fully aware of our need for a Savior.

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Fasting during Lent is a powerful spiritual discipline that reveals the weakness in our lives. When we fast, it becomes painfully apparent how out of control our appetites are and how much those appetites rule us. We see how much we rely on food and drink for comfort and not on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We are reminded of our frailty and realize that we have no control over our lives. Through fasting, we are choosing to embody this frailty, which, according to the Bible, does powerful things inside us.

Fasting in Scripture

Throughout the Bible, we see that fasting was a powerful method used not only by individuals to draw closer to the Lord but also by an entire community. In Joel 2:12, the Lord calls all of the people of God to turn back to him with all their hearts, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” That is why Lent can be such a profound time; we are fasting individually and corporately as well. We, personally, are turning to the Lord and joining our local church and Christians worldwide in turning to the Lord. What a powerful, incredible thing!

Why Should You Fast as a Family?

When we fast as a family, we are, as a family, joining this great turning towards God. Fasting as a family fosters a sense of shared commitment to our spiritual growth and solidarity with each other and with the Church. It presents a unique opportunity for us as parents to model and teach discipline, sacrifice, self-control, and obedience to God, embedding these incredible values within the fabric of our family. 

How to Fast As a Family

Throughout the years, we have fasted as a family during Lent. It has been a beautiful experience that has brought us together through the discomfort of fasting but also in the joy of the shared feasts!

It’s important to know that here we’re not talking about a total fast (completely abstaining from food) and is not necessarily a partial fast (reduced portions for a set period), as these can be unhealthy for growing children. Instead, we’re discussing a type of fast the church often calls an abstention: giving up certain food items that we enjoy and that we will miss during these 40 days.

Through trial and error, I wanted to offer some tips I have to make this fasting as a family easier for you: 

Decide as parents that you are going to fast as a family.

I know that sounds silly, but this will only work well if you, as parents, agree with each other that you want to be fast as a family. Otherwise, the example you are trying to set breaks down.

Have the entire family fast from the same things.

It’s too hard for each child to come up with something to fast from, especially when they are little. It is also too hard for them to maintain their fast independently. They will forget what they are fasting from, change what they are fasting from when it gets too hard, cheat, or go too far in their fasting and place too great of a burden upon themselves. This puts you as parents in the position of being a fasting taskmaster and watching over them in judgment, which is not what you want to be! When you do a family fast where everyone is fasting from the same thing, there is shared clarity in what is being fasted as well as solidarity and strength. 

Decide as parents what the family will fast.

I think the easiest and clearest family fast is from sweets and sugar, and additionally fast from meat on Fridays. This is so doable as a family; you don’t have to worry about nutritional deficits with your children. It will not hurt them in any way to forgo sweets and meat on Fridays.

Note: If you, as parents, want to take on additional fasts, that’s totally fine; just make sure your emphasis is on the family fast.

Explain what fasting is.

Sit down with your children and briefly explain what fasting is, why we fast, why you are going to fast as a family, and what you are going to fast as a family. Explain to them that how you walk through this time as a family will look very different from how the world behaves during this time of the year. Remind them that everything you do during Lent prepares our hearts for Jesus. Talk to them about parents who are about to have a baby. They not only open their hearts to the child yet to be born but also prepare the child’s room, get clothing and blankets ready, and pick out a name.

As God’s people, we are the same way as those parents. We prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus not only in our hearts but in our actions as well. As God’s people, we fast in Lent to remind ourselves that we are sinners and need a Savior. Because of this, we get too caught up in our wants and desires: what we will eat, what we will wear, what we want to play with, etc. 

Make your fast official.

  • Write down what you will fast and hang it in a prominent place in your home, like the refrigerator or the kitchen wall. Allow your children to decorate your commitments with things reminding them of Lent, like the color purple, the sign of the cross in ashes, Jesus journeying to the cross, sweets, or meat with a big “X” over them.

Emphasize grace.

Most importantly, remember that it’s essential to approach Lenten fasting with a spirit of mercy and grace, especially with children. Ensure your children understand that God will not be angry with them if they break their fast. Lent is something we do for ourselves to help us sanctify the time and remember who we are and what has been done for us by Jesus. Fasting does not help God to love us more, nor will he love us any less if we mess up. He already loves each of us more than we can imagine!

Nana’s Shrimp Creole

Made on the Fridays of Lent

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups petite diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 cups uncooked shrimp

Directions

Sauté onions and celery in olive oil. When translucent and tender, add garlic and sauté for one minute. Add flour, salt, sugar, chili powder and water. Stir until combined. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and vinegar. Bring to a low boil. Add shrimp and stir until shrimp are pink. Serve immediately over hot rice.


How can we commemorate Lent at home? Check out Ashley Wallace’s new book with Anglican Compass, The Liturgical Home: Lent. The paperback and Kindle are now available exclusively on Amazon, as is her book, The Liturgical Home: Easter, also available in paperback and for Kindle.


Photo by miromiro from Getty Images, courtesy of Canva.

Published on

February 27, 2024

Author

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Ashley Tumlin Wallace, the author of the Liturgical Home series of books and articles at Anglican Compass, is a homeschooling mom of four and the wife of an Anglican priest. She and her family live in the panhandle of Florida.

View more from Ashley Tumlin Wallace

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