The Weakest Reed

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.


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How to Save the World In Fewer Than 10 Steps

1. Even if you have all the power, splendor and resources of God himself, come into the world unattractive, poor and in a social standing generally regarded as powerless. 

Isaiah 53:2-3

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

2. Spend decades of your life, perhaps even the most “productive” years, living off the radar in complete obscurity.  For example, leave no verifiable records of your actions or activities in your teens or your twenties.

3. Spend time with people who have no power to change things.  In fact, make them your partners.  And maybe throw in a few people that most of the world would scorn and might not even necessarily trust or believe.

1 Corinthians 1:26-28

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

4.  Do extraordinarily kind and loving things. Things that could make you famous and bring widespread attention to your good work.  Then encourage people to tell no one about them.

Matthew 8:4, Jesus heals a leper and tells him to tell no one.

Mark 7:36, Jesus heals a man who can’t hear or speak and tells him to tell no one.

Matthew 9:30, Jesus heals blind people and tells them to tell no one.

5.  Even though you know you only have a couple of years to personally spread your message as far and wide as possible, spend time mostly with individuals or in small groups in quiet and intimate settings.  You may even consider generally avoiding situations where your message will be heard by great numbers of people, especially if those people will want you to take a widely recognized place of power within the culture at large.

John 6:14-15

 When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

6.  Get to know people.  Really know them.  Intimately.  Their bodily functions. Their foot odor. Their addictions. Their shame.  Their jealousies. Their selfishness.  Their brokenness. Their weaknesses. Their most ugly habits. Their hatred of you and everything you stand for. And love them anyway.  Love them until it kills you.  In fact, love them until they kill you.

Romans 5:6-8

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

7. End your mission on earth when your life is still at its prime and just when it seems you might be gaining some momentum and perhaps even a small following.  Surrender your life into the hands of the people who hated you.  Even though a noble death might make you more likely to be favorably remembered, die a shameful, criminal’s death.   Do it for the sake of those who worked the hardest against your purposes, your mission and your message.  For your enemies.

Colossians 1:21-23

The Message (MSG)

You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message.

8. Do it to make a place for your enemies in your home. To share with them all your inheritance.  Offer them your friendship. Offer them a place in your family. And then let them take all that you’ve given them and reject it.  Over and over again.  And keep loving them anyway, rejoicing when they finally do turn towards you. 

Luke 15:20-24

 20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]’ 

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

 

 

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We had one of those fights yesterday that was based on an old theme in our marriage.  It sent us down a well-worn path,  the soft, grassy buffer of newlywed naivete had long worn away from it.  It’s a path that’s we’ve trudged many times before, choking on kicked-up dust or getting entrenched in the deeper muck when it rains. Ruts have been worn and on darker days one or another of us might get hurt tripping and falling into one. Exhausted by the end of it, sometimes it doesn’t feel worth the effort to clean up again all the way before we get on to the next thing.  We think we’ve washed clean enough, forgiven enough, but the time is too short before we’ll put on those dirty, wet walking sneakers again and blisters result. And then we’re rubbing against raw on our next trek.

This thing is not something that is about a difference of opinion and I don’t even know that it’s totally about a particular sin either (though it certainly is true that without sin we wouldn’t feel this disunity).  We’re coming up against a fundamental difference in who we are and how we see the world. Talking about it doesn’t seem to help and ignoring it doesn’t seem to help either.  I’ve prayed about it (a lot)  and we still don’t seem to be able to find unity.  SO, where does that leave us?

I’ll tell you where it left me at about 4am this morning when I woke up after something fell off our bed to clatter loudly on the floor: feeling hopeless. Wondering if he’ll ever really get me.  Agonizing over how to live a life of one flesh with a person when it feels like the only way to fit together is to kill off some part of me.  But maybe then without that gangling part of Me, could we at least be a more neatly fitted We?

I try it sometimes, just  kind of a light neglect, not exactly starving that part that doesn’t seem to fit but maybe putting it on a rigorous diet.  It doesn’t work. Instead the opposite seems to happen. The more I ignore it, the more it demands to be seen.  It takes on a life of its own over there in the periphery to which I’ve relegated it.  Flashing all sorts of colors and morphing into shapes and dimensions unexpected, it’s impossible to kill it.  It’s so alive.  It’s even kind of winsome, doing its own charming thing in the corner.  Like a toddler in a time out after I’d forgotten I’d put it there too long, it starts singing some beautiful song to itself and I just want to join it.  It’s no use.  It’s just an inextricable part of who I am.

So what now? Does this mean I chose the wrong life or that God dealt me a harder hand?  I honestly don’t know.  Theology is tricky like that.  But I know that the more married women I connect with, the more I realize that this kind of marital imperfect-fittedness is not rare.  In fact, I think it may be the norm.  There always seems to be something that husbands and wives don’t get about each other, even in the best of marriages.  And we learn to live with them, hopefully appreciate the differences even, because we’re committed and because we chose love and we continue to choose love every. single. day.

But what about that pain?  What about wondering if we’ll ever be understood, appreciated, “gotten?”  What about the deep and fulfilling intimacy that we think marriage should be?

The answer was made undeniably clear to me this morning. It’s nothing new, but it’s the kind of bread I need to eat daily in order to be sustained by it.  I subscribe to a service called Go Tandem.  It’s awesome and it makes it really hard to ignore Truth in the midst of my busy life.  It sends me mini, individualized devotionals throughout the day.  I get texts and emails and voice messages and calls at times I’ve chosen.  It’s just the right amount of intrusive.  (And free.  Sign up now, I know you’ll love it).

Anyway, usually I get one automated call in the morning around the time I get out of bed.  And then if I don’t answer, it sends me the same message via email.  Well today, I got this same call THREE times in a row.  And then I ALSO got the same email THREE times.  Now that’s just weird.  Actually, it’s just God.  The message was clear and the Messenger was beautifully and faithfully relentless in His pursuit of me, like the most devoted of suitors.  I could barely hang up the phone before the call came through to me again.  And then appeared in my email.  Again. Ok, that may seem a bit stalkerish.  But sometimes I need that because I’m dense when it comes to feeling loved.

I pasted it below, but basically it was a reminder that my husband isn’t meant to totally get me.  He’s not meant to fulfill me.  He’s not meant to complete me.  If he could, I might be too easily satisfied and neglect to go after the real prize:  a profoundly deep, intimate, fulfilling relationship with God.

You Can’t Complete Me

Hear from God

Listen to today’s CallIt’s so easy to look to other people to satisfy our needs. Let’s be honest, they’re here, human, tangible. But don’t fall for that junk! Jeremiah explains that only God can truly meet our needs–and he will! 

Jeremiah 17:5-8
This is what the Lord says:
   “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
      who rely on human strength
      and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
      with no hope for the future.
 They will live in the barren wilderness,
      in an uninhabited salty land.
 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
      and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
      with roots that reach deep into the water.
 Such trees are not bothered by the heat
      or worried by long months of drought.
 Their leaves stay green,
      and they never stop producing fruit.”
Satisfaction only comes from God.


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When you wonder if you’ve buried the best of you…

It wasn’t that life had been idyllic before my mom left us, though I had been told that from the outside it appeared so.  There were certainly fault lines that our home had been built on. Generations of our family, in fact, had built along these fissures. So maybe that thing that shook us all to our core, leaving us each feeling permanently off kilter, was unavoidable. When you ignore the growing rifts, can you reasonably expect that there aren’t eventually going to be damages? Casualties even?

But here’s the thing: When the event comes along that shakes the very foundations of your life and leaves everything permanently changed you determine, though perhaps subconsciously, never to be caught unawares again.  You live the rest of your days shadowed by the grim reality that the Earth on which you stand might so very easily be broken to bits.  Knowing how you barely survived that first event, you brace yourself at the occurrence of even the most trivial vibration, an almost constant subtle tension defining your musculature.  In places where you feel exposed a bit you notice yourself  holding your breath, keen not to miss the most minute signals in your surroundings that could indicate the ground’s about to drop out from under you. Your hyperawareness feels like a matter of life and death.  You live with a low-grade sense of dread that, after so many years pass, you just assume is a part of living. Though you experience joy, you never trust it to stay.

When I talked last week about unpacking that pretty box that we buried when our family exploded, and worrying less about whatever gruesome things we might find and more about the beautiful things that we might have buried forever, this is what I meant:  Would I open that box we’d closed to find eyes, clear and hopeful, peering out at me.  Eyes that are better attuned to the beauty in the present than the danger in the future?  Would I find feet, bare and dainty, made for nimbly navigating instead of ones weighed heavily to the ground in cumbersome, steel-toed preparedness?  Would I find skin that freely takes pleasure in soaking up the comfort and warmth of another’s embrace instead of skin that pulls away in anticipation of the next loss.  Would I find a heart radiating with hope instead of one buckshot with disappointment so deeply and inextricably buried that it has shaped the very manner in which it beats?

Did what happened to me as a child permanently and irrevocably damage me?  Would my life have been better had those things never happened? More importantly, would I have been better if they had never happened?

Did my circumstances shape who I’ve become?  Without a doubt. My circumstances may have shaped me, but I also know that there is only One who defines me. Every single thing that touched my life first went through His perfectly loving, perfectly wise hands.  All of my days were written in His book before even one came to pass.  He has kept track of every tossing and turning night and every tear I have shed as if collecting them, that not even one might fall to the ground forgotten by Him.  And what will He do with them?  With every. single. one., He will work it for my good.  To think of that!  Nothing will be wasted by the Great Redeemer when it come to bringing about good, not even a single tear. He promises His people who mourn-

“to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”

Isaiah 61:3-4

Sometimes it is hard for me to trust that God’s good is really and truly that good.  A lot of people and a lot of things promise good, but I’ve been disappointed so very many times. And the truth is that all this supposed “good” that God is doing has felt an awful lot like excruciating, searing pain.  It has felt like death. It has felt like He’s broken my bones in order to reset them, but to me my bones appeared perfectly fine in the first place. It felt like everything that I could possibly cling to, the very things that I could depend on to shelter me, were ripped from my grasp.

My familiar home, my community, my church family, my parents as I knew them…These are not unreasonable things for a 12 year-old to depend on.  But all of them seemed to be torn from my grip and remained out of my reach for years as I stumbled toward adulthood, ostensibly on my own.

To be honest, I don’t have a perfect understanding of why tragedy and suffering are allowed by God. And I’m still praying that God would reveal to me how He held me during those times when I felt so very alone. But I am slowly starting to understand parts of how God used those very painful years for good.

First, He used it to teach me the destructive power of sin and to determine to diligently pursue what He has said is best and trust His perfect wisdom above my own feelings and inclinations. (I’ll have to save this part of the discussion for another day, though.)

Second, He is showing me the superiority of placing my hope in Him above all else. Because when even the very earth crumbles around me, He does not.

Though people let me down, He never lets me go.

My own dreams and plans may fail, but His gifts and His call on my life are irrevocable.

What others intend for harm, He uses for good.

And even when I am not faithful to Him, He remains faithful to me.

So though I don’t fully understand why we are handed over to death and suffering to achieve life and wholeness, I will remember that what I cling to will largely determine how I weather the storm. If I wrap my arms too tightly** around temporal things, things that can crumble as easily as I can, when what I’m holding onto inevitably falls then so will I.  But if I choose to build my life on the Rock that cannot be moved and turn my focus to things that are imperishable (Him, His promises, His love, His plan for good) then I will not be destroyed.

I am changing my strategy now to this: When the storms of life have their way and a path of destruction seems to have carved deeply and painfully through things we tend to value in this world, I will still be found standing on solid ground with my gaze fixed on Him, my vision full of that which is of greatest beauty and worth.  Because everything that fell away was perishable anyway.  That which was present at the beginning and that which will be victorious in the end is eternal. And THAT is truly what I crave.  Eternity, after all, is what we were made for.  And though I don’t always feel this way, I am determining to trust that He will make all things beautiful in their time:  Whatever is dead in that box is not as good as what He is bringing to life.

Are there parts of yourself and your life that you thought were beautiful that you had to bury?  Why do you think that happened?  How do you find that balance in your own life; joyfully embracing the gifts but not grasping them as if they’re our life preservers?

**I do not mean we should not cherish and receive as gifts those things that we can enjoy here on Earth.  It’s just to say that we can’t hold too tightly to them.  If we lean the full weight of our hope on them, we will surely find ourselves toppling eventually.  And if another person is that upon which we are leaning we may crush them as well.


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Walking Wounded

It has taken me a long time to recognize how my mother’s leaving impacted my life.  I knew it was painful and that it affected me somehow, but I think it has taken becoming a mother myself to recognize how profoundly it marked me.  As a mother, I’ve always felt like I was performing the job with significant impairments.  Something felt missing, deformed, less-than-whole, broken….and I wondered why is this so hard for me?  So many others seem to do it with such ease.  Why has this role left me feeling like I’m limping and dragging my way through something that comes so naturally for so many others?  I had a vague notion that some of it connected to what happened when I was younger, but never a true understanding of the depth and scope of it until recently.  One day I sat down to write and this is what came out:

It was as if the living and breathing organism that was our family had swallowed a time bomb.  Maybe someone should have heard that suspicious ticking and done something earlier to disarm it.  Probably an adult should have.  But instead, and I guess I can’t even say “all of a sudden” because it was a time bomb after all, one day it finally exploded and what-used-to-be a-family abruptly became a collection of pieces, bloody bits of flesh, splattered across the pavement.  Individually we were still alive, throbbing and warm, but the family as a whole was a gruesome disaster and no one could bare to look, it seemed.

One by one we realized that no one was going to scrape us up and put us back together. No one was going to rush over to take our pulse or assess the damage.  Eventually and separately,  each fleshy and mutilated member just slowly started scrunching and writhing its way along the road in different directions, trying to get somewhere.  Just trying to get anywhere but there, where the fires of the explosion still burned.  We were all reduced to raw, disfigured members ripped from a previously living body, trying our best to just survive on our own.

Where were those spectators you always hear so much about?  The ones that just have to look at that train wreck, that can’t peel their eyes away?  We belonged to this community of people, a tight knit fellowship of Christians who met in each other’s homes and let the kids play night games together under the warm glow of the streetlights outside after dark.  And we belonged to a large extended family who gathered on our porch to play jubilantly in a pots-and-pan band or swapped cousins for summer vacation.  But either the mess was too horrific or the people, those people that were supposed to be “my” people,  were too polite to stare at our disaster or too clean to get involved in our mess because no one ran towards us to help us scrape up the pieces of us that might have still been salvageable.

Maybe it wasn’t an accident at all.  Maybe my mom had served the family that time bomb, hoping it would launch her into a whole new place.   After all, she had traveled down that isolated road and made her way through the doors of  that sterile, new apartment before she let everything explode.  Had she driven away to a place deserted of everything and everyone familiar precisely because she didn’t want anyone else to witness the grisly and lurid dismemberment of our family?  My dad later told me that when my mom became obviously pregnant, people had started to show up unannounced to admonish her for the affair.   Part of the reason she had moved away was to escape those prying presences.  But what she had done to spare herself the public shame had instead compounded the injuries inflicted on each of us by isolating all of us from any other whole and familiar body of humanity that might have offered a transplant, an infusion, a graft of something living and healthy when we were all mortally wounded.

I now  wonder what would have happened if the pieces had been gathered up sooner.  If a trauma team had shown up to see what they could save; to help us stitch together the places our flesh had been torn apart.  Even if the family didn’t survive, perhaps each of us would have fared better.  It might have been like those medical miracles when someone is able to carry a dismembered hand in a bag of ice to the emergency room quickly enough so that it’s still viable.  Some genius doctor manages to sew it back on and reconstruct it.  Or at least salvage part of the arm and put on a good prosthetic.  Instead, each of us left too long to ourselves, we all suffered internal bleeding, infection, gangrene set in.  The longer we were left untreated, the worse it all became. And as the years went on, the more we were expected to just perform like everything was normal, the more obvious our injuries became to each of us.  Yet the more aware we became of our mutilation, the more desperate we acted to hide it.  The deeper we buried our wounds, the more hazardous the infection became. Because we didn’t take the time to assess the damage and clean out the wounds, we ended up with even worse long-term damage.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  When it happened, I think that our parents very much hoped that if they just smoothed things over, everyone would be fine. If they didn’t say it out loud, maybe we wouldn’t notice it was happening.  As if trying to address what was happening by talking about it- by trying to offer explanations, definitions, a sense of direction, would be like putting up road signs or caution tape around the scene of an event and would just draw more attention. Very quickly we were given the impression that everything was supposed to be ok.  Look!  No bloody carcass here!  Everything is very neat.  Very sanitary.  We never talked about the dirty details, the specifics like the decline of the marriage, parental neglect, the affair, the abandonment, divorce….We talked about “what happened when we were little” in broad terms in passing, but never named it out loud and never ever, ever dwelt on it.  The entire time, my parents did the best they could to avoid any outward appearances of trauma.  As years passed we would spend holidays all together, both parents and their significant others whenever possible.  My parents never argued in front of us.  If we brought up the topic of what went wrong, it was quickly dismissed.  It was obvious to us that our pain, our wounded selves, could make other people uncomfortable, angry, sad or even repel them.   It was almost as if we had stuffed the remains of that exploded organism of a family into a very pretty box.  Eventually, when we were together we could talk about the box, but never about the rotting flesh inside.  And certainly we should never mention it to someone else outside of us.

My siblings and I spent the next several years after the explosion as walking wounded.  The members of the family, all of us missing bits and pieces here and there but still alive, found ways to reconstruct ourselves in whatever way we each could to survive. I felt so horribly disfigured, so bloody and raw inside, I couldn’t bare to have anyone really look long enough at the real me me to notice the damage.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d never be whole again.  I’d always be this person, permanently scarred, disfigured in places that I was afraid to let the world see.  So, I did what I could to build an armor around my marred flesh.  I adorned myself with pretty accomplishments and shiny achievements that might make me less offensive to gaze upon.  With no rational adult brain to help me frame the situation, it was up to my not yet fully developed gray matter to make sense of it all.  This wasn’t that big of a deal, I reasoned.  Divorces happened all the time.  Adultery was not rare.  Lots of kids lost parents permanently, so losing mine sporadically shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  This was not the deterioration of the rainforest, genocide, human trafficking….I had no right to feel sorry for myself.  In fact, this is what most adults were saying about this whole phenomenon of families splitting.  What happened to me was nothing special.  It was the story of millions of kids.  Kids were resilient.  We’d be just fine.

I was just fine. It would be fine.  Everything would be fine.  “Fine” is what comprised the battlefield stitches applied so that I could go on in life without bleeding all over everyone and everything I came in contact with. If sometimes I bumped up against a raw spot, wincing as an unexpected emotion flashed into view,  I’d hastily add another stitch:  Come on, buck up,  I’d tell myself, You’re fine.  If I forgot about the injuries and exerted myself in a certain way, I’d mention the curious painful sensation to someone in the family and they’d remind me: Don’t be dramatic.  You’re fine.  

But they didn’t always stick, those stitches we applied.   Sometimes they’d tear open and someone around us would notice raw and damaged flesh.  One rare friend I acquired in high school, one friendship I thought was true, saw something oozing from a wound, and got scared away.  She ended our friendship by leaving me a note at the main desk letting me know she couldn’t be around me anymore because I was “too sad all the time.”  By then, I’d convinced myself that I didn’t have any good reason to be sad.  What was wrong with me?  Better work harder next time to keep it all together, to push it all neatly back inside.  Another time an English teacher read depression in some poems I had handed in.  I didn’t realize not every other teenager i knew didn’t feel like an empty, unlovable, unworthy abyss.  She reported me to the counseling department who notified my parents.  My dad and mom were both there to meet me after school.  They were angry I had exposed family issues.  I was reminded that this wasn’t my story to tell.  I had neglected my job of protecting my mom’s story from being exposed.  Their lives were hard enough without me leaking some messy emotions.

 To this day, twenty years later, we still have not talked about the demise of our family in any real detail, except recently in brief and hushed conversations, one-to-one.  Sometimes when we’re together in a group we delicately touch on the topic, refer to it in passing, kick that pretty box a few time to see if it’s still in tact.  But we never open it up all the way.  I think we’re all too afraid at what we might find after all these years.  What gruesome parts of ourselves we might discover.  Or worse yet, what beautiful parts we might have forever lost.

What moment in your life has left you forever changed? Did you know it at the time?

NOTE: I wrote this piece several weeks before the events in Boston on 4/15 and coincidentally planned to publish it this week.  I hope that the analogy does not offend any who might be affected by that horrific event.


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Let’s Get This Admission Out of the Way

The worst thing about feeling like a failure as a mother is that I was pretty sure it was a job that I should automatically be good at.  I mean, I was born for it right?  All the basic parts came with the package.  Two breasts, one womb, one vagina, two arms with which to hold a child,  hormonal urge to nurture….. Being born a female with a desire to mother and then not feeling like I am a good mother sort of seems like being crafted to be a boat and then failing to float once placed in the water. At best, someone wants a refund on that purchase and if the truly unimaginable happens, being a broken boat whose job it is to carry others from one point to the next means being responsible for someone drowning.

When people said that motherhood is the hardest job on the planet, I was pretty convinced that was just a bit of propaganda developed to perpetuate a socially-beneficial role but that it over-stated the difficulty of the position.  People raise kids all the time.  Family life is the foundation of society.  (When I picture a foundation, I always see those cement blocks- grey, functional, dull).  Parenting is necessary to an orderly society.  We all came from parents.  Many of us become parents. People with less experience, less desire, less education, fewer resources, even people with the worst of intentions claim this job title.  I didn’t assume it was easy exactly, but since it was a vocation one could come by without any training, endorsements, education or even planning and because I had spent a good part of my childhood as firstborn female caring for my younger siblings and other people’s children, I thought I could wrangle it, no sweat.   I mean, I even have an MPH in maternal and child health so I pretty much had this thing locked up from both an experiential and academic perspective, right? Ha!

As long as I’m being honest, I’ll just say the this thing.  This really awful thing for a woman to say: I assumed that women who stayed at home all day with their kids just had more time to mother them, making their job easier than a mother who also had to balance a career.  Instead of squeezing in an outside profession and being a mom, my faulty logic went, they were just filling one role and probably could then easily pursue other activities like volunteering at a shelter and maybe taking an art class or running to the gym daily.  Personally, I pictured myself being one of those moms who strapped their babies on their backs and took them to neighborhood meetings to plan community gardens and made a few trips a session to the Capitol to advocate for better maternity leave policies.  All the while, I’d have my baby sleeping peacefully tucked into a hands-free carrier and any older children in the background coloring amicably as they listened to the empowering community advocacy scene surrounding them.  Later, we’d take nature walks around local lakes, pointing out butterflies and picking wildflowers and, where appropriate, I’d use those encounters with nature to illustrate object lessons for my children on the meaning of life.  Then we’d arrive at our modest but cozy house to place a loaf of homemade bread in the oven and start supper while my kids had a quiet time creatively constructing placemats that we’d use at the table that night.

At this point, I fully expect mothers all over the world to either hate me or laugh at me.

This, of course, is not at all what motherhood has been like for me.  I was shamefully wrong about the ease of being a stay-at-home-mom.  The job I expected to be a breeze for me completely broke me. I became a mother and then turned 30 a week later.  The first eclipsed the other in a way that foreshadowed the dying of self that was to become a daily reality.

The prophet Isaiah said of Jesus, “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.”  I spent the next 4+ years feeling as  feeble, crushed, and bruised as trampled swamp grass.  A perfectionist, born and bred, I could not tolerate my brokenness in the area of motherhood.  My entire identity and my feeling of self-worth had been based on all that I could achieve and motherhood was not a task that I could check off my list, well done, or place on my resume with bulleted highlights of my accomplishments.  Motherhood, this thing I assumed would be second nature to me, has left me feeling like the weakest reed, bent over and barely hanging on as this season of my life blew chaotically around me.

What assumptions about motherhood did you make?  Have you been proven right or wrong?