Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. It is a time of deep self-examination. The Lenten season encourages us to begin to make inner changes to our hearts, our minds, and our souls.
I like to try to take the time during Lent to help my children move closer to Christ and to each other as well. While most of the time my kids get along, there are other times that all they do is fight. Not only do they fight but they believe the worst about one another, they try to undermine each other, and they speak hatefully to one another. It breaks my heart as I have always taught my children that God has given you your family as a gift. He has specially chosen these people to be connected to you. He loved all them enough to want to bless them with siblings who are also their friends. To see them not getting along and worse yet believing the worst of each other, just breaks my heart.
As a parent it is difficult sometimes to help our children see how their actions not only hurt one another but God as well. I wanted a way for my family to understand exactly how their words and actions hurt their siblings and hurt Jesus. As we were beginning Lent, I had started contemplating the wounds of Christ. I thought surely there was an activity online we could do to help us with this lesson. I found a great activity but it didn’t completely accomplish what I was hoping… so, I modified it. You will find the instructions below.
The premise of the crown of thorns activity is to create a crown of thorns where for every sacrifice and good deed your child does he is able to take out one of the thorns from Christ’s crown thus relieving a part of His suffering. It is a very inspiration activity! It encourages sacrifice and good works in our children. But for my family I also wanted to show how our actions hurt Christ as well and add to the suffering He endured for us. And so, we added toothpicks when each child did something rude or ugly to his/her sibling. They were painted red and made a startling impact on my kids.
To make your crown of thorns gather your supplies. You will need:
- A grapevine wreath in any size (we tried to find one that would actually fit on someone’s head)
- Brown and red tempura paint and paint brush
Instructions: Imagine Christ wearing a crown of thorns. Visualize how the thorns look within the crown. Decide on the number of thorns you wish your crown to have. Paint the majority of them brown. Afterward take a handful of toothpicks and paint them red. Allow all the toothpicks to dry.
Once your toothpicks are dry, begin to insert your brown thorns only. Allow your kids to help if you’d like or put them in yourself if you hope for a more “uniform” look. This is a perfect time to pray about Christ’s suffering while you are doing this.
Find a designated place for your crown of thorns. We made a small prayer table where we also included a crucifix and a candle.
Place all your red toothpicks in a small jar near the crown of thorns.
Explain to your children that each time they sacrifice or do some sort of good deed or work that they will be able to relieve Christ’s suffering by pulling out a brown toothpick. I guarantee they will be eager to begin their good deeds!
But also remind them that while their good actions have good consequences, their bad actions have bad consequences. Show them the red toothpicks and tell them that each time they are found hurting one another, whether in word or deed, that they will have to put in a red toothpick to Christ’s crown. Their actions, which add to His suffering, also will pierce His heart. More than likely they will be taken aback by this thought. It will remind them to treat one another as they would treat Christ.
This activity can be difficult to do. The red thorns remind us of how our actions, both good and bad, affect Christ. Even as adults, how often do we stop to think about how much we hurt Jesus by the things we say or do to one another? We take to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets and rant and rave, calling names and degrading those who don’t believe as we do. We listen to our friends’ problems only to share them with others. We talk about our coworkers to others often making sport of them for our own gain. We ignore, make fun of or degrade the homeless man sitting on the side of the road who is just hoping for a small hand up. We treat our spouses and our children with less respect than we do to strangers. How many other ways do we fail to treat others with the respect and dignity that Christ calls us to have for one another?
This Lent, I pray we each will understand that everything we do, good and bad, not only affects our relationships with each other but also with Christ. When we treat one another well, we treat Christ well. When we treat others poorly, we treat Christ poorly. If we want to show Christ our love we must first start with one another.