This is the final piece I wrote at the end of 2016 when I took an expected break from Spillin’ the Beans. I couldn’t quite finish writing this piece and simply could not share. The emotions of my season seemed far too fresh and raw to spill the beans on them. It’s been months now since that time and I have found freedom from the weight of the subject to share. There are days of wrestling that remain but I’m learning to work through them. And I would rather share out of my vulnerability for the sake of perhaps helping my sisters along in their own journeys of faith and mothering. So, please see my heart in this one.
A unique and baffling thing happened to me when my son was born. I found myself in new and strange places that I had never really been before. Places like…
The maternity ward of the hospital – for far too long.
Family Resource Centre – truly my saving grace most days.
Rooms in my own house – spaces that were unneeded and unoccupied.
But beyond those new places that I was discovering with a little one in tow, perhaps the most frustrating of all was the fringes, the outside edge of every place. Like the back pew in church, or just outside the doors of the sanctuary. Standing in the back at a youth camp or listening to the preacher muffled behind a one way window. Shopping on the racks in the mall walkways instead of in the store. Just to name a few.
In the beginning months it was convenient and necessary. I had an almost spy-like ability to map out the escape route in any space. I could locate the bathroom, nursery, exit or empty space in every building, and I found myself gravitating to within ten feet of one or more of them. It was safe and unassuming. If Baby cried or fussed I quickly exited before any attention came my way.
There came a moment though when the fringes began to feel uncomfortable, frustrating and disappointing. Perhaps I became more accustomed to Baby’s needs, more comfortable meeting them, more aware of how normal all of this really was (surprise – most people understand babies cry and squirm and are not remarkably disturbed by it). And maybe I was just missing my old normal, my in-the-middle-of-everything, front-row-seat take on life. But I found myself on the edge one day, painfully aware of how foreign it felt and how much more I needed.
We had prepared to attend a ministry retreat after a particularly tiring week of mothering. I remember standing in my vanity mirror, sweating from the pressure of applying winged eye liner with a baby crying in the bassinet nearby, praying deeply, and with everything in me, “Lord, I just need to meet with you this week. I don’t know what I need but I desperately need you.”
On the first night of that retreat, I found myself tucked away in a side room nursery rocking a baby on the floor before the speaker had even finished their introduction. I kept a brave face – I wasn’t the only momma in the room – but wow, my spirit was crushed. Defeatedly I prayed in the quiet, broken part of my heart, “Lord, if you have anything for me, you’re just going to have to find me out here…” On the fringes. On the edges.
I’m an emotional creature – more than most perhaps – but I can rationally accept that not all spaces are designed for babies and I can roll with that, even if my stroller can’t. It’s the challenge of my life season to find a new normal, a momma normal – and maybe that means shopping online instead of in-store. But I’m fighting with all that’s in me against occupying fringe seats to the presence of God.
I can’t help but gather from the gospel accounts that mommas have been fighting the fringes for literally centuries. In Matthew’s gospel we catch up with Jesus who has been busy travelling and teaching, with his appointment with Calvary looming ever nearer. It so happened that along the way some parents brought their children to Jesus to bless them. No doubt they had heard of his miraculous wonders and wanted desperately themselves to be close and for their children to receive all the good and blessings Jesus could pour onto them. Those well-meaning disciples seem to do the unthinkable and scold the parents for bothering Jesus, beginning to push them aside. Jesus’ response is the familiar verse we’ve read tucked beautifully into baby books or on cascading wall displays of church nurseries. Jesus rebukes his disciples with these words:
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14)
And then the Lord of all Creation beckons those squirmy, snotty, crying children and babies to come real close, close enough for the earthly mess of them to touch Him. Those precious children and their persistent parents escape the fringes, come away from the edges. There Jesus lays his hands – the only hands that have ever been fully God and fully man – upon them and blesses them.
My weary momma heart finds comfort and solace in that. He gets it. Really and truly, He gets it. He sees me and He invites me close. He beckons from the fringes to the closeness of His presence, with this little child in tow.
Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not on a “rights” kick and I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just mostly asking for grace. For me and for my son.
Forgive his squirming body and busy hands. Excuse his crying from time to time. Listen beyond my shushing sounds. Please look past his saucer like eyes soaking up every detail of you from his perch on my shoulder. I just need to be close to Jesus and I just need him to be there.
I want to encounter the absolute life altering presence of Jesus Christ and I want my son to encounter it too. I fiercely desire for him to have a living, breathing, active life in the Spirit that he has learned to crave by watching my life, inside and outside of our church walls. I have never longed for anything with more passion than I long for him to be there – in mind, body, soul and spirit – when the glory of the Lord shows up.
It burns so deeply in me that it pours out of my heart as salty tears of intercession for his life. But maybe, just maybe, you feel it for your own children and grandchildren. You have that same mix of love, desperation and desire for their precious God-breathed lives.
So please I’ll just ask this once. If you’ll have grace for me, I’ll push past the fringes and pull closer to where it counts with him.