Are the diaper years the spiritual growth sidelines?
In our household, the last week has been dominated by stomach flu. I don’t really need to fill in the gaps. Four little people tend to share these things around liberally.
- I didn’t get much done
- We didn’t do trips to museums
- We didn’t get stuck into math and phonics
- The washing machine was going constantly, but there is still a huge laundry mountain to be dealt with
- I didn’t get a lot of sleep
It’s easy to wonder, what was the last week about?
Paying attention to character
Leah’s post at My Little Robins encouraged me. Her ‘Complete Charlotte Mason Preschool Guide’ goes back to first principles, which I love, and reminded me what the little years really have in view: habits and character. And those are developed anywhere and under any circumstances.
Recently with the kids we’ve been learning the fruit of the Spirit and praying for this fruit to grow in each of us. And with that perspective, a bout of sickness suddenly seems like a very appropriate training ground for developing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…. Caring for all the needs of a sick young family? Yep, I am painfully aware of my need to grow fruit.
Paying attention to MY character!
So, this was a lightbulb moment for me: motherhood is meant to be refining my character. I get so focused on bringing up the kids and helping them learn how to relate to one another and how to react to their circumstances… But those same relationships and circumstances are shaping me too. The more I think about this, the more I love it. It changes how I react to how my day goes – if the purpose is reforming my character rather than getting through my plan for the day, it takes the sting out of the to-do list! And I know it will be all to the good of my children if I am shaped more like Christ.
Motherhood: the spiritual sidelines?
That first step into motherhood is such a huge adjustment. Life changes in so many ways. And one of the big changes is often in church activities. Of course it depends on your church culture, but often the arrival of that first precious newborn is a step away from evening Bible studies and serving rotas. When I found myself with 3 babies the eldest of whom was 25 months, even daytime Bible studies and coffee mornings were an impracticability.
And it’s easy to feel: the life of the church is going on way over there, with the meetings and the buzz and the people who aren’t so sleep deprived, while you are here. Just here. And sometimes at the park.
“Ah, you have been benched for a couple of years by practical necessity, but don’t worry, it won’t be forever and then you’ll be back and able to contribute in some meaningful sense again…” Are you spiritually on the sidelines?
Here are some reasons why not:
1. You are in Christ
Anyone who trusts in Christ is. You’re joined to him; He’s not over there and you’re over here. He is as with you now as much as He was before you were a mother and He’ll be as with you whatever your circumstances are.
2. The Lord has put you where you are
All our circumstances are ordained by the Lord for our spiritual good. I’ve talked before about how helpful I find it to remember God’s providence in my life, and in my children’s lives. There isn’t some other situation which would be more fruitful. The time for spiritual growth is not on hold while you are changing diapers.
3. He is making us like Jesus
Our spiritual good is Christlikeness. And you are in Christ, so you are in the right place to be shaped like Christ. All those highs and lows of mamahood, they are to produce fruit in us. Any time I am just that little bit more patient in the face of inexplicably strong displays of emotion – see, He is doing it! Right in the middle of my messy living room.
Spiritual fruit for every season
So no, my friend with the little beans and the pile of laundry, you have not been spiritually benched. You are not on the spiritual sidelines. You are right where it’s at, in Christ. Whatever your circumstances.
There are a couple of reasons it’s important to take hold of this now:
Firstly, so the truth can cheer you up. And more importantly, strengthen your arm for the service you’re doing.
Secondly, it will stand us in good stead for any season of life which doesn’t fit the world’s idea of fruitfulness, usefulness, productivity, value to society and self-worth. Seasons of illness, caring for infirm relatives, experiencing the frailties of old age ourselves. Seasons… but not the spiritual sidelines. We will be right there in Christ.