Last week my eldest very seriously announced to me, “Mama, I have one problem in my life.” “Son,” I said, “Please tell me about your problem.” “Well, I love Jesus a lot. But I love people the same amount.” My son’s awareness of his own heart and the need he felt to love God more without knowing how encouraged my own self-examination. Is my “one problem in life” needing to love God more? Do I prioritize this goal above house projects, mothering goals, and career aspirations? With a sickening feeling, I confess that I do not. Lord, please forgive me and help me to put you first.
Joseph was a slave and in prison for a total of 13 years until the right moment when God would use circumstance, location, and timing to elevate Joseph to being the Egyptian King’s primary assistant. It took being sold, bought, and imprisoned to place Joseph in the right place at the right time. God did not remove Joseph from his difficulties, but was instead withJoseph in the midst of them. I doubt God’s presence made Joseph any more enthusiastic about his doleful circumstances, but it did create opportunities for Joseph to trust God more and it gave purpose to Joseph’s trials.
Sometimes I feel imprisoned. My motherhood and homemaker responsibilities often leave me exhausted both physically and mentally, and culminate in me not sleeping well at night, which further exacerbates the exhaustion issue. Any breaks or nap times are filled with making dinner, laundry, and cleaning the house. Children need and I give all day long. My time is not ever my own and I feel defined by what I do rather than who I am or desire to be.
All this is not bad. It is, simply, my life at this stage. Many times beautiful moments pop-up in the middle of the mundane like tulips from the snow. Watching my eldest son hold hands with his younger sister and witnessing the dancing delight of my second’s eyes as he makes his little brother laugh are priceless treasures. Teaching moments abound and I rejoice that I get to be there with my kids. I get questions about anything from “Why is a truck not a motorcycle?” and “Do we get to keep our baby brother?” to “What makes lightening?” and “Where do we put used tea bags?”
Despite such wondrous moments, I feel my dreams eliminated by the very beings that I love and would give everything to nurture. I hear Chesterton’s rebuke in the back of my mind (paraphrased), “Why should I want to be something to everybody when I can be everything to these four somebodies?” I do not have an answer. Something inside me dreams so big to do things outside the home even as it just as stubbornly persists in not granting the primary care of my children to anyone besides my husband and myself. And so, I sometimes feel imprisoned by the very good life that God has given me.
When I read about Joseph, I realize that God has a plan for the perceived prison of my present. He has a plan now, and He will have a plan for me when the all-consuming purpose of my present diminishes to the past. Will I trust Him with that future state, to put me in the right place at the right time in the right circumstances to, perhaps not be the right-hand assistant to the president, but to do something else pretty cool? It is a question and challenge that I must ask myself everyday.
I cannot imagine a house without “bad guys,” those animals, monsters, or people against whom my older boys defend us at any given moment. They perpetually create some adversary in their imaginations and BAM! away they go, fighting to protect their sister and me. The normalcy of this type of play manifested itself two days ago when my not-yet-two-year-old daughter picked up a Lincoln Log, shook it at the floor, and made shooting sounds. She then looked at me with her toothy smile and said, “bad guy!” Oh my.
My second son was sharing his protective plans with me when his older brother said, “We are all bad guys,” and then proceeded to name each of us. “All of our hearts are bad,” he continued, “and we all need them fixed.” I smiled as my telling of Solzhenitsyn’s lesson of the line between good and evil running through every human heart re-surfaced. We are all bad – we all have a sin problem – and we all need a savior. There are no good guys, just saved ones.
Thankfully this younger brother is beginning to understand. He prayed before dinner, “Heavenly Father, thank you for every person in my family. Would you be with us, and would you also be with enemies that I do not like but get to love? Amen.” We are one step closer to loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.
In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with a man he later discovers to be God in human form. He struggles or strives with the Almighty, refusing to let go until his opponent blesses him. I too am fighting for a blessing.
Facing the joys and trials that any mother might face, I need endurance. When everything goes wrong from the first cry of the morning until the last wee one is tucked into bed at night, I need consolation. Living an awesome life, loved by my husband, surrounded by my children, and so obviously in the position God desires for me right now, I need to express gratitude.
So how do I reconcile the tremendous trials and blessings that fill my life? I ask, plead, and wrestle with God to give me joy. A feeling that does not depend upon my circumstances but instead exists because I trust God in the midst of it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly. A feeling that fights self-pity and expresses thankfulness. I am sometimes a mess and my life with four littles is perpetually a mess – albeit us a beautiful one. I need joy to make it through this day and into the morrow. And so, I wrestle.