Every year, about the midpoint of Lent, I realize that I’ve once again managed to get too busy to engage with it as fully as I’d like. That’s when it’s good to have a little “Lenten reset,” to pause for bit to remember what this season is really all about.
This year, interestingly enough, a children’s book has helped me refocus. Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter is a picture book that I have shared with my kids, but which has also nudged me to remember what the Lenten season is really all about.
This is a beautifully-written book. Laura Alary packs a lot of important ideas into few words, written in a simple style that can easily reach kids (and their stressed-out moms). “This is the season of Lent. The church is dressed in purple,” it says on the first page. I love how she starts with that; color matters, and kids notice it. She returns to color elsewhere in the book (my kids loved tracking all the color references), talking about how “Colors are like a different language we can all speak even when we have no words.” The closet artist in me goes, YES! Exactly! I love helping kids see that purple is the language of Lent, just as other colors correspond to other seasons.
The body of the book is divided into three parts: Making Time, Making Space, and Making Room. Alary does a succinct but effective job of explaining why and how each one is a goal worth having in Lent. She shares not only how Jesus made time, space, and room in his own life, but also offers kids some concrete ideas for doing the same (cleaning your room and giving away some of your possessions; going up to someone who is standing alone and starting a conversation). The text is accompanied by beautiful pictures by illustrator Ann Boyajian; they are both vivid and soft at the same time, and very inviting.
Something else that is lovely about the book is also how it works in metaphor and parable. Alary works in references to many of Jesus’ stories, and makes observations like “[Jesus] pours himself out like water from a pitcher. He touches what is dirty and hurting and makes it clean and whole,” which is a powerful way for kids to understand the symbolism of so many Bible stories and church rituals.
As I look at my own busy life, with work and grocery shopping and Little League practice and staff meetings, I often think that I don’t have time or space or room for anything more. But that’s not actually true. If Lent does anything for me, it helps me be more intentional about where I do have time, and what I can cut to make more room and space for God. I guess it’s a sign of my humanity that I am always hungry to be reminded of that. I love how this year, the reminder came in the form of this gem of a picture book.