I fell. I was holding my eight-month-old baby and I fell. I tripped over something that was out of place and cried out on the way down to a hard floor. I gripped tight, never losing eye contact with her. She was safely tucked into my arm. Her head landed on the only soft place in the whole area, a folded corner of her laundry basket. I pulled her in close. She melted into me, relieved to be safe again. I breathed hard, relieved God protected her from harm.
I went to lift her, to get off of this concrete floor, and my stomach dropped. I couldn't use my right arm. Shock gripped me. The pain, the fall, the fear, all of it ushered in the acute awareness of how a second's time can reveal just how fragile you really are.
Somehow we finagled up, my daughter not wanting for a second to leave my arms. We walked to my 77-year-old neighbor’s house to ask for help. She came willingly, along with another lady down the street. They helped Harper get ready for a nap and wrapped my arm with ice and sat with me in all my confusion and helplessness.
Days later, the doctor would tell me I'd fractured my elbow. It's deemed one of the more unique fractures. Most breaks happen in the ulna because most use their hands to prevent full impact of the fall. I fractured my radius and lost all rotation in my right arm because my elbow had functioned as a pad to prevent the breaking of my daughter.
Without the ability to rotate my arm, I couldn't pick her up. I couldn't change her diaper. I couldn’t give her a bath, change her clothes, or put her in her car seat. I couldn't be alone with her. And with all this newfound inability, it began to feel like I couldn't, for all purpose's sake, be her mama.
Limitation of any sort puts us in touch with our humanity and exposes the places we've trusted to tell us who we are. Sleepless nights, a super fussy baby, an incessantly hungry baby, a sink full of dishes, piles and piles of laundry, these and more give us a fresh glimpse at just how finite we are. The limitations laced in our role as mom tempt us to reach for our measuring stick of comparison, only to see in living color, how far we fall short.
We attach words like failure, and we carry weights like guilt. We search for our identity because somehow when our lives are being poured out for precious little ones, we fear it’s lost. After all, who am I when I can't fulfill 90% of the things a mother does for her child?
That season of forced limitation was humbling. Garbage sack showers and everything left undone reminded me everyday of how small I really am. But the God-authored humility made room for the gospel to take up more residence in my heart. To acknowledge my ever-present neediness and often helplessness made me fit to receive more of the Kingdom, which always means more nearness to the King.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
Jesus, He knows what it's like to be limited, and He embraced it. He fully depended on His Father to proclaim His identity, to provide what He needed, to preserve His honor. And even still, Jesus knows what it's like to have His body broken. To be punctured and pierced, that we might never know the full weight of our brokenness. That we might have life in our broken places.
Everyday, opportunities for bitterness or surrender stood before me. Self-sufficiency proved impossible, and my need for hope that would hold up the weight of that identity-threatening season grew strong. The beginning lines of Psalm 139 comforted my heart like never before:
1O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Our God hems us in, behind and before, setting the parameters on our lives as an act of kindness, judging for us what is best. Too often, we follow Eve, wishing for knowledge too wonderful for us, wishing our lives were different and better and easier in the places where we feel the most limited.
But when we humble ourselves and live hemmed in, we discover the presence of Immanuel, God with us. The intimacy of being known, of being seen, of being heard by the God of all creation fosters joy when we also know that this God experienced the limitations of these mortal bodies.
When our hearts turn from seeking our identity in our ability to resting in Christ’s sufficiency, we discover our identity safe and hidden in Him. When we accept our limits as Christ did, rather than despising them, envying others’ lots, or shaming ourselves, we’ll find Him ready and willing to answer the needy cries of a mama.