His tiny hand of butter and silk stroked my face, from the tip of my brow, to the crest of my lip, sometimes with a brief pause to pinch my nose.
It was one of those sleepless nights full of unexplained cries and sleepy snuggles, and so – ready or not – my Littlest and I greeted the morning together.
My eyelids fluttered and lingered shut for too long a moment for his liking. But he didn’t cry. He rustled me patiently and gently, letting me know he was content just to be close, but would prefer my wakeful attention. The charm of the thing was almost more than a heart can hold.
The tender affection of a little one, so precious and pure – it humbles the heart.
This first moment of the morning ushered in the equally obvious and revolutionary realization that being a mama is absolutely and completely a gift.
Worth it. Blessed. Abundant. A joy.
So why didn’t I seem so grateful for the opportunity to shepherd and care for my children, less than an hour later?
Another snow day, another breakfast mess, another runny nose, another fresh cover of toys on freshly mopped floor, another fight over morning chores, another pile of laundry. A new round of bickering, tattling, back-talking, noise. Another attempt at morning devotions ending in lecture about respect and inappropriate times for silliness.
And all before 8am. Same old story.
There is this ever-common experience that mamas seem to share…that we unreservedly know that our children are a gift, and we manifestly struggle to walk in that truth through the mess of the day.
I think somewhere tucked inside, I have a fervent desire to be better than this struggle.
I want it to be easy to remember the blessing of my children. I want to cherish them and delight in them all the time. I want to keep in view the abundant blessing, as I remember mamas who ache to hold the baby they lost or couldn’t have. I want to remember always that my husband and children exceed any hope or dream I ever dared to imagine. I want their precious faces, their sweet giggles, their tender embraces to be enough to propel me through these little years with courage, and a smile.
But being above the struggle is altogether unhelpful. A struggle in the dark is unavailable to help and healing.
And so, I’m daring to let the light shine on the ugly reality that it is hard to hold perspective and gratitude when children scream and defy me. It’s hard to make intentional and gentle choices when all of my senses are chronically overstimulated, and my body chronically fatigued. It’s hard to believe that it matters what I do and say, when no one seems to be listening. And it’s hard to catch a rhythm when a new fever spikes every three days all winter, or when someone in my house always seems to be in crisis. It’s hard to bring my patience and compassion when every wrong thing is blamed on me, and every right thing is credited to someone else. It’s hard that almost everything I do to is invisible.
Over the last few years, I’ve come to grips with the plain unlovely reality that I can quickly fall from the truth, and become a weary, heavy burdened, grumpy mama. I know I’m there when my strength and capacity and patience are sapped, and the weight of every need in my house presses down on me heavy.
Are you there today, sister?
Jesus extends a sweet invitation to us, right in the middle of our tired and empty and ready to explode. And he offers us a key to unlocking the soul rest we so desperately need in the middle minutes of our day.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30
To find rest for our souls.
We are invited to bring our weariness and our heavy burdens to the feet of Christ. We are invited to learn how to have a lightness in our step, like Him.
And what is the key he offers us to unlock rest for our souls? Gentleness and humility.
Rest for our souls comes not from having less to do…that’s often impossible for the weary and heavy burdened.
Rest for our souls comes not from having less responsibility or ignoring hard realities, or locking ourselves in the bathroom (though let’s be honest, this is sometimes necessary).
The light and easy yoke that Jesus carried on earth came from his gentleness and humility of heart – gentleness that led him to see others with eyes of compassion, and humility that led him to rely on the Father, and to serve others tirelessly.
As I am beginning to bring this word of truth into the weary moments of my day, I see clearly how often the things that stand in the way of a soul at rest are my impatience and arrogance.
A critical spirit towards my children thinks “You should be better,” and causes me to feel exasperated. Gentleness acknowledges that they are still in the tender and bedraggled early years of figuring out what it means to be human, what it means to be sister, brother, son, daughter, friend, student, follower of Jesus. Gentleness calls out my patience.
Arrogance says that I deserve better than to be disrespected, yelled at, ignored, unhelped, and it leads me to grow angry. Humility of heart says that I am no better than my children, and calls to mind that Christ my King chose the cross though he deserved the throne of heaven.
Haughtiness and harshness lead me to think that my children are supposed to obey me, and when they don’t, I have a right to be frustrated. Gentleness says that their weakness is unsurprising, just like mine, and it offers us an opportunity to invite God’s healing and sanctifying touch.
Pride says “I should be able to do this myself.” Humility says “I need Jesus,” and opens me up for God to renew my strength.
Arrogance tires quickly of lowly jobs like wiping bottoms, picking up the same toys, washing and folding the same pants, and breaking up the same arguments each day. Humility calls this a blessed road, on which I can offer the work of my hands as a secret dance of worship before my God.
Today, may the weary and burdened soul hear the invitation to come to the feet of Jesus. May we leave behind our pride, our critical spirits, our self-sufficiency, and all that stands in our way, and may we learn about the gentleness and humility that connects us with the heart of God and brings rest to the soul.