"What if," I look into their eyes, pause to make sure I have their attention, "for Lent, we did the 40 Day Love Dare as a family?" I explain the premise of the book, that it's written for married couples to learn to love one another better, but that we could tweak it for a family. We dialogue about God's passion for us... how that Love Himself would live among us as a man and then give His life for us. And the children, all enthusiasm, ask me why we have to wait a week until Ash Wednesday, "Can't we start now?"
So for the next six days the conversations, anticipation, questions... meanings... discussions. We consider love -- as a verb. We practice loving attitudes. We pray. I quietly smile, expectant of God-size revelations, when oldest child says with relief, "At least we won't have to give up anything."
One conversation -- two days before Day 1 -- gets heated and I blurt out the challenge borne from my own recent convictions, "I double. dog. dare you... to fast from any sense of self-preservation... all defensiveness... for the duration of Lent." My boy looks at me, incredulous. I go on, more in admonishment of self than to him, "To love selflessly. Completely... selflessly."
This resolve to "...do small things with great love." ~ Mother Teresa
Day 1 ~ Love is patient. "Patience brings an internal calm during an external storm."
"For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your [family] at all."
Day 2 ~ Love is kind. "Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive."
"...do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness."
At the end of day 2 my friend asks me how our love dare is going. I report reflectively, then ask her how their love dare is going. She reflects, too, and I relate to her account. Oh, how I relate. This giving up of self. Laying it all down to demonstrate... to live... Love.
Day 3 ~ Love is not selfish. "Love does not seek its own." (I Corinthians 13:5)
"It's hard not to care for something you are not investing in. ...[invest] something [of yourself for your family members] that says, 'I was thinking of you today.'"
Day 4 ~ Love is thoughtful. "How precious also are Your thoughts to me... How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand." (Psalm 139:17-18)
Ask your family members during the course of the day how they are doing and if there is anything you can do for them.
Day 5 ~ Love is not rude. "Will you dare to be delightful?"
"Ask your [family members] to tell you three things that cause him or her to be uncomfortable or irritated with you."
...And this fast from self-justification. To dare to move from self preservation to brave determination. To overcome my narcissistic tendencies and behaviors. To love recklessly. To pray and pray and pray as I boldly engage my family, longing to bring them on this journey of discovering we have all that we need, abundance overflowing, and that we can freely live to give it all away.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." ~ Jim Elliot