Typically two things happen at my house when we plan to fast during Lent. First, we forget it’s Lent until about a week in. Second, we don’t make it all the way to the end before we give up.
One year we tried fasting from iPods, iPhones, and iPads. It lasted maybe a week. Ok fine, maybe a day.
The best advice I ever received regarding the observance of Lent was from my grandmother. She was Catholic and loved Jesus with her whole heart so I consider her an expert on the subject. She taught me that Lent is meant to be a time of prayer, fasting, and preparing your heart to celebrate Easter.
This was news to a girl who used to give up swearing. Every year.
Grandma emphasized how the season of Lent should be a time to draw closer to God, not kickstart a new diet. In other words, giving up dessert isn’t the point of lent. Observing lent by fasting from sweets or Facebook or technology or swearing is great – but the idea is to replace it with a time of prayer and Bible reading.
When my kids were younger, I wanted them to prepare their hearts for Easter but it never felt right for me to force them to fast. So we started a fun activity to get our kids thinking about the fruit of the spirit during Lent. It has became a treasured family tradition and has stood the test of time. Plus it meets my criteria of being simple! Yeah for simple!
Here’s how it works:
The Fruit of the Spirit Jar
1) Find a jar and some dry beans.
2) Make a label. (Here is a pdf of the sticker you can print and slap on the jar.)
We will stick with plastic and splotches but yours can look pretty and Pinterest-worthy.
3) During Lent, each time you witness your kids demonstrating a fruit of the spirit, a bean goes into the jar.
4) On Easter Sunday when the kids wake up all the beans have been replaced with jelly beans.
That’s it. Simple. My kids LOVE it.
My children think the Easter bunny fills it. We never told them that … we actually don’t reference the Easter bunny at all … but we just let it be part of the fun. We already sold our souls to the Elf on the Shelf so why not dig ourselves deeper into lies? For those of you who don’t do the Easter bunny, just skip that part. And maybe stop reading because you might be appalled by the confessions that follow.
While I started this as a means to encourage my kids to be thinking about the fruit of the spirit, it has evolved to be something that works better than the Elf on the Shelf to bribe encourage good behavior from your kids. I KNOW, I KNOW! It’s terrible! But you can’t fault me for enjoying a whole month of kids on their best behavior. Lets consider this merely a double bonus. Ok?
We use a pretty W I D E margin to decide what counts as a fruit of the Spirit. Somehow in my house brushing your teeth, going to bed without fuss, doing your homework, cleaning up your toys, doing the chores, vacuuming….they all have evolved to count towards beans in the jar. For our justification please see confession #1.
I secretly pad the jar with extra beans from time to time. Like to make up for when we were out and about and I promised the kids I’d add one later and forgot; or when I didn’t realize it was lent and got started late. Ahem. I have also been known to dramatically toss a handful in when I notice EXTRA effort, much to my kids wide eyed delight. Whatever. Do it how it works for you.
One more thing … the most important thing …
It’s important to remember that you can’t coerce the fruits of the spirit. They are what flows from walking in step with the Holy Spirit, not a behavior to win favor with God or your parents. We get this – we aren’t total heathens here. But it’s still a fun way to teach them to the kids. And the best part about this tradition is the conversations we have about the real meaning of the passage and what it means to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
So go grab your jar and beans. It can’t be any easier. Have fun!
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law Galatians 5:22-23
P.S. For an added bonus you can sing one of my favorite childhood songs about the fruit of the Spirit. Its super catchy and fun.