Our first child began sometime during her third month of life waking up every day at 5 am. We tried putting her back down, we tried letting her fuss for loooong minutes, we tried bribery, prayer, pleading… but there she was, red-faced and shaky-smiling at us, reaching out for that connection with us, no matter what we tried. So I gave in.
I’ve always been a morning person; the sun is up and so am I, as Anna in Frozen would say. These early golden dawning hours were always my time with my Heavenly Father; I would sit and let the light slowly fill the living room while I sipped coffee and read His words, as I reached for relationship, as I poured out my heart and learned to sit still and listen for His. For a while our little Glory-girl could join me in those devotions, no problem: she would nurse and I would read, or pray, or just gaze at her and try to fathom why God would bless me with this miracle… fast forward five years, and those wheels are just all the way off.
We’re four kids deep, and I realized last month that the last time I had a sustained devotional time with God was somewhere in a past so distant the date had faded to ephemera. I told my husband that I felt insane. I actually felt like my mind was unmoored, untethered, when I didn’t ground it in time with God and, now that it had been so long that I couldn’t even remember which Psalm I was on last time I cracked open my Bible in the morning, I was pretty sure everything happening in my echo-y mental cavity was a whirlwind of don’t-look-too-closely-but-she’s-unwell.
So, of course, came discouragement. Would this ever end? Should I be forcing devotion time? What will happen to my children’s delicate self-worth if I refuse to play with or even talk to them while I read the Bible? How can I push them away when Jesus actually got in His disciples’ faces and said “Let the little children come to me”? Aren’t these the little children before me? Am I choosing something selfish and inappropriate for my time of life when I put on Daniel Tiger for thirty minutes so I can pray? Isn’t that sacrificing relationship with my children? Won’t God meet me somehow here, supernaturally fill me while I feed and tend them? What about this feeling of burnout, what about the fact that I’m fading—becoming a mass of short fused self-pity because this fundamental part of my own foundation is uncared for?
But then, in the midst of the despair, God answered.
I prayed about it. I cried out. I hid in the corner of my kitchen and covered my face and just gave it to Him: God I can’t. Please help. I need You… and slowly began to come a gradual dawning of an approach to this time of life, like those sunrise mornings when God’s light used to flood the living room.
Let the little children come to Me… Let my little children see me go to Him…. Let them SEE me, let them grow up with a Mom who starts the day One. Way. Only. Wrestle for this blessing, and feel the depth of gratitude for that time—REALLY come, myself.
Like Glory in her crib five years ago, I would reach out, red-faced and shaky-smiling, for that connection.
So these are our imperfect mornings now: I sit on the couch with a cup of tea and the Bible. I smile at each child, hug them good morning, give them a book, and remind them where the bananas are if they claim starvation. I ask them if they want to pray together (rare), then when I’ve done it, I say: “Ok, this is Mommy’s time with God—it’s the best part of the day! I’m going to read His word now, so you can read something too, or play quietly, but we aren’t going to talk or be noisy right now, okay? I’m so glad you’re up to share this time with me!”
There is lots of whining. Lots of minor fits. But slowly, slowly, they’re getting it. No I haven’t been able to read in a sustained focused way—yes there is noise, and there are potty accidents, and other sundry unpleasantries, but there is something about pursuing time with God with joy and grit that I am starting to love. I don’t know if this will work, but I do know that they will grow up knowing their Mother’s joy in, and commitment to, time with her Father.
If a child sees a parent in love with something, won’t they naturally be drawn to understanding it as well? Isn’t my morning time manifesting my love for our Lord through faith enacted, through dependency displayed, my first and greatest act of discipling them?
I hope this is so. I pray that one day I will sit in our living room with all four children as we read and let the light flood in together, basking in His presence as a family. It may take six more months or thirty more years, but what is that in light of the eternity we could spend worshiping Him together? Maybe these fumbly and grumbly mornings are the warm-ups, the uncoordinated and half-hearted opening salvos to those glorious forever symphonies.