MY SONS have been looking forward to this Easter — and not because they’re anxious to bite into candy eggs, jelly beans and chocolate bunnies.
What they really want is to once again be able to munch on sausage and biscuits. You see, my 8-year-old gave up his favorite sausage for Lent while my 5-year-old sacrificed the baked breads he loves so much.
It wasn’t easy. I had to coach them through a low moment or two, but they persevered.
And they’ve learned a lot about themselves and their savior.
First of all, they learned that they could do it. They made it. (So did their mom and dad, who gave up favorites of their own.)
More importantly, throughout the Lenten season, and particularly during times when they were on the verge of giving up, my wife and I took the opportunity to encourage them and to teach them what their sacrifice meant and, more importantly, what Jesus’ sacrifice has meant for the ages.
Sacrifice can be tough, but it’s rewarding. That’s true whether it’s fasting for Lent as you seek God’s guidance for renewal or volunteering or donating to help improve the quality of someone else’s life. Either way, sacrifice leads to fruitful, rewarding experiences.
My sons told me it was hard doing without some of their favorite foods. Can you imagine going to a restaurant and before you can warn the waiter, he arrives with the biscuits or loaves with my 5-year-old sitting there? Or waking in the morning with an 8-year-old overcome by the urge for a bite of sausage?
I continually encouraged them and reminded them of the faith story: Jesus, the son of God, came to earth to save sinful man. He sacrificed his life on the cross. Was buried in a tomb. Defeated death, hell and the grave. Rose early one Sunday morning with all power in his hand. And because he got up, we too can get up from all circumstances that might come our way.
Some might ask why put the guys under such pressure. Well, I don’t believe in discriminating when it comes to the things of God. They’re children, but they’ve got spirits that need to be fed just like we adults. On top of that, this was their idea. We were just riding along in the car one day, and the two of them said they wanted to give up something for Lent.
When they told us what they wanted to give up, it floored me.
A couple of years ago, Alexander — the older of the two — heard me explaining Lent and said he wanted to make a sacrifice: He would give up Goldfish, the cheesy crackers. The problem was that Alexander didn’t like Goldfish one bit.
I almost split my side laughing. Then I explained to him that participants must give up something they really value, something they would miss, something that would create an empty place, giving God room to do something special as they sought renewal.
So it was a joy when he and Christopher voluntarily gave up something they love for Lent.
I prayed with and for them continuously and encouraged them to pray for others even as they asked God to help them grow to be the kind of young men he wants them to be.
I can’t wait to see how God manifests himself in their lives.
In the meantime, it’s rewarding to see my sons — and count my wife and me in the number as well — gain a better understanding of Christ’s work. While many Christians fast or make some other sacrifice (some volunteer or set aside certain habits or pleasures) during the 40 days of Lent, whatever level of discomfort or challenge they endure pales in the face of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Most of us will go back to eating that food or return to that pleasure we gave up. Some already are talking about what they might give up next year.
But Jesus’ sacrifice was on a very different scale, with an eternal goal. His sacrifice was for once, for us all — and for all time.
And this morning, we don’t celebrate his death. We celebrate his resurrection.
Because he got up, we can approach life with an everlasting hope.
Speaking of hope: I know two little boys who are hoping that sausage and biscuits hit our table this week.
Reach Mr. Bolton, authorof “God Is Grace: Lessons to a Father from a Son,” at (803) 771-8631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.