I couldn’t pull my eyes away from her face. From the life in her eyes. She was radiant, and I told her this. But she didn’t see it. She didn’t see how she shone. She just saw the way she failed, every day, to get off the couch when the kids went to bed.
She was a young thing in grey tweed, thanking me for the women’s seminar I’d led that day.
And then she kept talking, kept saying how hard it was to find the joy in the diapers and the dailies and where does the time go, as a mother? How do you get it back? And you have plans, all day long, to be productive when the kids go to bed. But when they finally do go to bed, you only have energy to sit in front of the television, and then you wake up and do it all again the next day.
And my friend, who was standing next to me, who also has two little boys, said, “Yeah, you know, sometimes I wonder… I keep giving, and not receiving. Do I have enough Christian in me to make it through this?”
I thought of all of the library books I keep sending back, the ones I don’t have time to read, yet I keep checking them out, in hopes… and they sit stacked on my bedside table, even as I fall into bed into sleep because who knows when the next boy will rise needing a glass of water or another song or a potty break?
And then, “No, girls,” I said. “No, we’re receiving even as we’re giving. It’s in the serving that Jesus pours into us. The more we give, the more we receive… “
All of those years of having time to read books, and study, and meditate, don’t amount to the depth of spiritual knowledge, the raw humility that this motherhood produces in us. This bending on knee wiping up pee from the floor, wiping chocolate from our son’s faces or from the couch and this reading stories and breaking up fights and teaching them Jesus Loves Me… this is deserving of sitting in front of the television at night, because all day long we are being Jesus’ hands and feet.
We may not have time to read the Word. But we are living it.
“It’s not up to us to feed ourselves. It’s up to us to feed our children, and it’s our heavenly father’s job to feed us,” I said. We all visibly relaxed. “He is giving to us even as we are giving to them. We don’t have to do anything except keep serving.”
Like Brother Lawrence, the girl said.
Yes, like Brother Lawrence, the holiest dish-washer the world has ever known.
“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God,” he wrote in The Practice of the Presence of God, “who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
And when the evening rolls around, and the children are in bed, “You have a choice,” I said. “You can sit in front of that TV, or you can do something else. But you do have a choice. And once you choose, don’t feel guilty. Embrace your choice, and rest. Because you’ve done good work that day.”
One day, we will have time, again. To read, to reflect, to meditate. And all we’ll do is sit there with the books open on our laps missing our children. Missing the way they used to fill our laps and spill our coffee.
So let’s find Jesus. Let’s find him in the diapers and the dailies. And let’s not feel guilty about putting our feet up when the kids are asleep.
Because in taking care of ourselves, we are caring for them. The least of these. And there is no holier work.
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