The longer I’m at this gig the more humbling it is to find oneself falling far, far short of the mark, not only of housekeeping and public decency, but of basic charity.
Half my kids are sick today. Croup, fevers, tummy aches, the works. The other half are teetering on the brink and all I can think is “how inconvenient. How frustrating. How terribly short my sleep was cut last night.”
But I have to plug in the humidifier. I have to sit on the couch and hold and comfort and apply tissues and administer charity of a general sort, and it is hard.
I am more moved by the beautiful moments of motherhood than the hard ones. Seeing my firstborn son turn a technically perfect backstroke, flipping around to catch the edge of the pool and flash me a hundred watt grin. Those moments enlarge my heart with pride, bringing an easy smile to the surface. As I’ve beaten to death on these pages recently, the harder moments are the ones that bring massive deviations from the planned schedule and derail productivity to zero.
I think that in the upside down kingdom of God, those dull, inconvenient moments are probably more important. Simon of Cyrene stooping his shoulder to bear the weight of the Cross, if only for a few minutes. Veronica pushing past the crowds to wipe a battered brow with her own garments, responding not to a perfectly planned day running errands and being productive, but meeting Christ in the street, as she actually encountered Him, bloodied and repulsive. Needy. Probably not as she’d hoped or expected to.
I desperately love my children, and yet there are days – too many – when I spend massive amounts of energy and time trying to devise ways to escape their neediness, if only mentally. Flip on a show (today there are so many shows, necessary to the illness at hand, there is a time and a place for Netflix), toss a snack, distract with a toy pulled up from the basement. All in the name of buying myself, what, a few minutes to finish an important email or a phone call with a stranger working out some all important bureaucracy? Mailing the energy bill on time? Putting on mascara.
Okay, that last one is important. But you see my point?
I will peel your oranges today. I will set aside my agenda and purge my schedule and watch the dirt grow on the floor and sit with you, and I will respond not to the Christ who comes conveniently in quiet prayer times with lit candles and silent, dark living rooms but in the distressing disguise of the child, coughing into my ill-timed and opened mouth when I stoop to lift him into my arms, needing not the possible plans I’d made for myself today, but my very self.