Nearly eighteen months ago, our Harper Joy entered the world with a head full of hair and eyes wider than any baby I've ever seen—and completely interrupted the rhythm of my life. Life changing—as all the seasoned parents say. But understanding how all my life has been affected by that change, well, that's an ongoing process.
I'm introverted by nature. I love people. I love getting to hug and laugh and hear updates on matters of life and the heart. I know, though, that if I will continue to love these exchanges with others, I must lean in to the way God has designed me. I must come to Him regularly, schedule spaces for nothing and quiet, and make room in my life to give ear to His still, small voice.
This was much easier before motherhood. Now, a small human accompanies me literally 24/7, and my introverted nature has been thrust into a new system it must manage. No more controlled schedule.
It’s hard to pretend I have any control when our small babe prefers to cry rather than sleep or to eat rather than sleep or simply to be awake rather than sleep. No more anticipated, dependable, quiet alone time. Even when I’m woken in the middle of the night, I’m not really alone.
As Harper begins walking and talking, my introvert desires are being threatened even further. I will soon be managing even more emotions, shepherding tough questions, and disciplining with more thoughtfulness than I have room for even now.
My chief delight in this new calling is in the revelation of God’s character through it all. The chief challenge is keeping my eyes and my ears and my heart on Him, even as space dwindles for the kind of communion I'd grown accustomed to before I became "mama.”
A recurring drama has played out in our household over the last couple of weeks. After dinner, I sneak quietly to the kitchen sink and hope my husband holds the attention of my daughter for five minutes, just five minutes. Inevitably she hears the water blasting, the dishwasher opening, and the dishes clanking. With curious excitement, she hurries over, inserts her little fingers into the silverware, and pulls out her plastic spoons and forks with a look of triumph.
I sigh. I breathe in. I correct. I replace the silverware. I shoo. I call for Dada’s helpful distractions.
After seeking the wisdom of a friend, I heard a distinct difference in her attitude towards her child at the dishwasher. Unlike my tiptoeing and grumbling, she intentionally invited her son into the process. The Lord used the kindness I heard in her voice to bring to light the frustration I typically feel. I saw the fruit of the Spirit born in her and the fruit of sin born in me.
Search me, O God, the familiar words of Psalm 139 lead me. I wanted His careful inspection. I wanted His gentle revealing of how my heart was not set on Him, but on self. Why am I frustrated more often than not when my hands are scrubbing food from plates? Why does it feel impossible to be patient and give grace to the stubby hands pulling out the silverware?
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:17
What do I want to do? I want to be alone. I want to escape. I want the comfort of being by myself. I want to not be needed. What once provided a space for processing and communion with the Lord is now a place of contention. What once served as a place to recharge, I now treat as a refuge away from the demands of being with someone 24/7.
These desires are not limited to my kitchen sink. I see them when I slink into the couch after a long day, depleted and preferring to check out and be undisturbed by my husband or dog. I see them when I'm offended at the amount of time she sleeps—or rather doesn’t sleep—for her nap. I see them when I keep a record of all I've done, all I've left undone, and all I'm not getting to do. I see them when I want to be served rather than serve, to be in charge rather than lowly, to be alone rather than engage the gift of relationship with my child.
The desires of my flesh—for control of my circumstances, reward for all my sacrificing with a little bit of me-time, release from the endless responsibility of shepherding, loving, and watching out for my little girl—these are at war with the Holy Spirit. The flesh keeps me from doing what I want to do—connect with God, show patience to my child, and live without the pride of believing I know what’s good and best for me. The flesh cannot win against the Spirit, and as long as the Spirit lives in me, Paul makes clear in Romans 7-8, He'll be using His resurrection power to crucify my flesh.
As I repent from seeking first my kingdom, I see how escaping brings no true rest and relief. I see how my little retreat to the sink is nothing more than a fleeting pleasure. I see that my preference for my quiet, controlled, finishing-just-one-task-without-interruption actually brings cost to those around me and robs me of joy.
I worship the God of invitation, the God who always beckons me to come near. The God who is never too busy for me, never seeking His own will at the cost of my good, never holding me at a distance until He's ready. I worship Jesus, who even in the very last hours of His life, made it a priority to provide for and prepare those entrusted to His care. He remained God-centered and others-focused even as He endured pressure none of God's children will ever face again.
In this worship of the humility of Christ, I remember that Jesus walked in communion with God though He was rarely alone. I remember the sacrifices He made to be alone—how He withdrew to desolate places to pray at crazy hours of the night and morning—and the heart of welcome He always extended when He was found—because the crowds always found Him. After considering the example of my Savior, I praise Him and know my need of Him. I ask for His mercy to increase my capacity to commune with Him and to bring me one degree closer to glory that I may do the same with my beloved child, sudsy hands and all.