I was just so tired.
Last night, as I nursed my youngest in the quiet darkness, her beautiful face melted my soul. My tired and grumpy feelings of late have led me to lose sight of the glory and the blessing that my children are to me. I felt mournful, repentant, hopeful, and thankful all at the same time, as I gazed at her – ever trusting – despite my tainted outlook. I think it was a godly kind of sorrow.
2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that “…God sometimes uses sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek eternal life. We should never regret his sending it…” (The Living Bible)
It’s such a beautiful mess, this motherhood thing. And I don’t even mean the laundry piles, the dirty toilets, or the mountain of dishes on the counter. I’m mostly talking about myself!
What I realized in that holy moment with my babe was that I have been missing out by getting washed away by it all. My children mean the world to me, but I wasn’t acting like it. So many of my words had been corrections. So many of my looks had been suspicious. So many of my sighs had been impatient ones. As I thought it over, I murmured something to my little suckling child about wanting to love her with my whole heart.
And then I stopped in my tracks. No. Something about that sounded wrong. Who am I supposed to love with all my heart, mind, and strength? I was immediately convicted as I remembered my merciful God. I had just reviewed this at the Spring musical put on by my nieces’ Christian school.
“What is the greatest commandment?”, I heard the little actor query inside my head.
“To love the Lord my God with all my heart and mind and strength…” I answered back, as Christ had done so many years before, this time making it personal. God, I have NOT been desiring you or leaning on you like I could. I know that my strength for each moment, for each child, comes from you.
“…And the other is like it. To love my neighbor as myself.” Oh no. I haven’t been doing that either.
“And who is my neighbor?” That little kid from the play just wouldn’t stop jogging my memory.
I took over from there. Well, in this case – in this season of complete and utter exhaustion – some of my most important neighbors are my children.
And how must I love them?
Just as I love myself. Have I even been loving myself? Nope. Not quite.
Just in case you’re there too, I just want you to know you’re not alone. I myself was very thankful when our couple’s counselor validated our exhaustion during a session recently. This phase of child rearing, where you have several young children under 5 – or 6 or 7 – is simply exhausting. There’s no other word for it. If holding it together in the midst of the chaos is all you can do, then you’re doing well.
But by re-setting our priorities, I think we can do better. By leaning into our Savior in a deeper way, we can find more strength. And by halting our work and resting, we can love ourselves in such a way that raises the quality of our neighbor-love.
For me, it meant leaving the dishes on the counter one more day, and elevating my foot so it wouldn’t flare up on me again. It was a rough choice, because the Mommy Guilt. We’d all been busy, the dishes left very little counter space, and my husband had to help get dinner ready. He wasn’t expecting me to sit on the couch, rubbing my toes with essential oils when I should have been scrubbing, loading, chopping; scrambling to catch up with the day that the hiking plans had interrupted. We had to talk about it later after the kids went to bed.
He finally got me. Understood. Agreed.
I’m learning to stand up for me just enough that I can be a better mom and wife. And I’m figuring out how to carve deeper, more intentional devotion into my schedule so that I don’t forget my God. We are not forgotten. But we forget ourselves all too often in the delirium of the daily grind. We will never be perfect this side of heaven, but every day we can be better lovers – of God, of selves, of our neighbor-kids. Will you cling to the cross this Easter, and become a better mom with me?