These days – these summer days are crowded. The children are at home ALL THE TIME. They are busy. Busy with their markers, busy with their chasing and pretending, busy with their persistent demands and orders for help-me-get-the-lid-off-the-yellow and I-want-apple-juice and I’m-hungry and Mommy-Ozzie-hit-me or Mommy-Ozzie-yelled-at-me. The laptop is on or the phone is open to a Google Doc but I’m only able to tap out a few words at a time. Podcasts and radio shows are playing in the background all day long in the kitchen and in the TV room is Little Einsteins or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I’m really desperate for a lone moment. Ceiling fans are whirring and the poor dog, Ellis, is ever click-clacking (nails in need of a trim) across the floors following me around or the children if they’re carrying a bagel or crackers. Blocks and Legos. Crumbs. Everything is sticky, for some reason. The kitchen is halfway clean and halfway always getting-ready-for-the-next-meal.
And then a skirmish erupts deep in the heart of that ever transient quiet. A particular marker. Someone grows weary of the TV show and has the nerve to turn it off. Anna doesn’t want to play ninjas. Where are my gorillas? asks Desmond. I’m huuuuuuuuunnnnggrrrrrry, whines Anna for the 8000th time this morning.
I quietly go into my room and lock the door. They follow me up there and pound on the door: “Moooommmm, are you in there? What are you doing? Mommmmmmmmm, are you in there?”
There’s not enough space.
Physically, even in our 2300 square foot house. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually – every thought – I’m leaning on the kitchen counter frantically typing as if these are last my words and every fleeting and glimmering image in my mind is completely obliterated by every squeal and cry that suddenly appears at my hip.
I remember Sheryl Sandberg’s words to lean in – that now-unforgettable phrase like an earworm – a mantra and song I repeat to myself but not when it comes to my professional life because well, that’s mostly nonexistent – and I wonder if I need to lean in here.Lean in to motherhood. Lean in to interruptions, demands, and negotiating who gets what Rescue Bot when and for how long. Lean into this season. Lean into their lives.Click To Tweet
And then I think: I really hate that phrase.
You know, Jesus didn’t really lean in much. That’s what I think when I read the stories and see how often he went away by himself to pray or got in a boat to spend a day on the lake or took nights off to just have dinner with friends.
Something about this turning away – turning inward – turning into solitude makes me see more and more how we were created for it but that everything around us compels us to lean in – lean into the needs and petitions of the external – ie. everyone else. Because if we don’t then we are being selfish. We are being irresponsible. We are being negligent. We are being unfaithful.
Of course, so much has already been written about how we’ve turned the vocation of raising children into a kind of religious idolatry and how we need to be quiet to really care for our mental health, and that being productive all the time is impossible, and that a simple tidying up does wonders.
So, what am I trying to sort out here? There’s something about how all this stuff – literally and symbolically – gets conflated with faithfulness. What does it really mean to be faithful?
What would it mean if being faithful in this season of life – whether parenthood or singlehood or childhood or clergyhood or stay-at-home-momhood – meant being free? Being free of the guilt of not performing or providing every second of every day? Being free of the pressure to constantly be available and attending to every cry and whine immediately? (I’m a big proponent of the French pause – not only for sleeping/sleep-training but for everything – “let them work it out for a few minutes” is another motto of mine.) Being free of the continuous insanity of ninja turtles, transformer robots, and where-is-the-blue-marker inquiries?
I keep going back to this language of faithfulness – what it looks likes, what it means – because it’s not just about our marriage or about our faith in God, which is often the way we use this term, but maybe it’s about being full of God’s faith. Maybe even God’s faith in us? God’s belief in us. God’s faith in our process and journeys. God’s faith in our desires and love. And how that moment of stoppage is not just a chance to get away or to clear our heads or to write or to process:It's a chance to breathe in the freedom of God's faithfulness to us and God's faith in us. Click To Tweet
Because sometimes I ultimately need to remember – to feel the reality – that God has faith in me. I suck at this parenting-job at least 80% of the day and I think often, God, how am I supposed to do anything much less change the world if I can’t even figure out how to make a decent fort??? That all those voices and standards and expectations that crowd my vision of myself, my ability, my capacity, my life – those take away from the faith of God.
Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Help me to know your faith.
Sometimes it takes locking myself in my room to hear these words, more than a pause, more than rest, but a moment to step into that space where I can give myself a chance to remember what it means to be faithful.
Inspired in part by Olive Chan’s post at SheLoves:
Mark Buchanan, in his refreshing book, The Rest of God, writes, “[Sabbath] is sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.”