As soon as I heard the crying from my two-year-old’s room, I looked over at the clock. 4:38am: an hour of the day only redeemable by the fact that it is summer and the sun had just begun throwing gold over the tops of the hills I can see from my window. How beautiful, I thought briefly, and then stumbled my way to my crying boy.
Just ninety minutes before this I had nursed my six-month old back to sleep for the second time. And six hours before that, with an end-of-the-day mom tank blinking its caution light on “E,” I lost my patience with a bedtime-stalling three-year-old and shut the door on her without a prayer or a kiss; I simply could not muster either after she threw the Doc McStuffins radio at me when I told her sleeping with it was off the table. Toddlers, man. A strange species of loveable crazy-makers.
So after 15 minutes of rocking my two-year-old and praying that all too familiar mama prayer, Lord, you can do all things; please let this child go back to sleep, I realized that both the Lord and my child wanted something different from me, and our day was beginning far earlier than I was ready for it to, forcing a familiar sentiment forward in my mind: I don’t think I can do this.
Without question, being a mama is far harder than I ever imagined it would be. I don’t think I went in to this gig naïve, I just think motherhood is something we can only be, at best, marginally prepared for. I had my share of stay up late, get up early nights in college and graduate school—surviving on four to five hours of sleep is not a new thing. But surviving on four to five hours of (broken) sleep for three and half years? I’m just not sure one ever gets better at that; we simply learn to operate at 60 percent of full capacity. And really, being tired is just the beginning.
My three-year-old is in a constant state of “put your eyes on me, mom!” and stomping her feet in whiny distress when any answer I give her is not what she wants. The opportunities for heart training and teachable moments are not hard to find with her; we are in a spin cycle of precious obedience that we celebrate, and pulling-my-hair-out defiance that we agonize over. My two year-old, still searching for his words, needs something very different than her right now. His demeanor has been much easier to parent than his big sister so far, but his developmental needs are an emotional wringer. That, and he is also a two-year old boy. We all know what happens when you turn your back on them for too long: something, somewhere in the house will need a clean up. And then there’s the baby, and all I can say about him is praise to you, O Lord, for an easy baby whose greatest need is a full belly. Life with these beautiful three is all hands on deck, all the time.
Layered on top of exhaustion, discipline, speech therapy and cleaning up the latest spill, there’s the hardest part of motherhood: fear. Because every day there’s another story to remind me just how real and present evil is in this world: another life taken with a gun, another young girl’s dignity bought for pleasure, another diagnosis stealing the dream of a precious family.
And far too often, I don’t think I can do this. I’m too tired. I don’t have enough strategies to discipline well and even if I did, my patience is gone and I fail to see through all the good advice I’ve been given. And mostly, I’m just flat scared of the world, and it is impossible to raise brave children when I’m not feeling brave at all.
But like God has so graciously done for me a thousand times in my life, he reminds me that the answer isn’t even found where I’ve been looking for it: in a good night’s rest or sound parenting advice or a gated community in a country with strict gun control. No. As much as I am a fan of all those things, there are no man-made structures big enough to keep out fear and keep in grace. I could raise my children in a bomb shelter and my own selfish and sinful nature would be enough to undo us all. But Jesus… every great turnaround of the heart begins with those two words, with that man.
As I poured a cup of cold brew coffee over ice, the clock crawling just past 5:00am and my toddler bringing me the remote control and rubbing his chest in his sign for “please,” I caught another glimpse of the sunrise; the beautiful warmth shining on the world thirty minutes before had only increased in intensity, and I knew in that moment that on my own, I can’t do this. I can no more raise my precious children with all the integrity that I want than I can make the sun rise again tomorrow morning.
But I’m not on my own. My hope is not in my ability to be a mama. My hope is in a Savior who covers my inability. He’s never once asked me to go it alone, and he walked this world two thousand years ago so I would know I don’t have to. He knows what I need before I ask, whether that is patience or wisdom or faith. And he told me how to beg him for those things, summed up in this beautiful petition: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. All our lives can be covered in those words, from the minutiae of spilled milk to the anxiety of a terror-filled world.
Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come. Not mine. Yours, Lord.
I may not have all I want as a mama. I could use a lot more sleep, a bit more compliance and I’d sure love a world I felt a little bit safer in. But then I see the morning landscape painted in gold, and I think of a God who is right here, in the midst of all the scary and the pain and moments that leave us without words, and I know I have all I need, because I have a Savior.
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Let’s walk in that peace today, friends. Our aim toward the glory of God and eternity with him is shaky, and on our own we will miss the mark completely. So let’s trust him to steady our hands, calm our hearts, and anchor our faith. He has, he will again.
*Photo courtesy of Ashlee Gadd