I’m not entirely sure how I’m functioning right now. Four weeks ago I could barely carry on a cohesive conversation because my mouth literally could not make words based on what was happening in my brain. This morning I am sitting with a mug of lactation hot chocolate in hand, listening to the baby monitor transmitting through the speaker of my iPhone, and looking at how our home has transformed into baby central. The only difference between four weeks ago and now is that I have decided to say “Screw it.” I’ve realized that I need to lower my expectations of sleep and anything I thought I would be able to do in a day. Even writing this small piece feels like a mountain for my brain to climb. Lighting a candle feels like a win these days.
Sigh. Motherhood, am I right?
Of course, this experience is totally not new for mothers everywhere, but when you go through it for the first time, you realize it is not for the faint of heart. I am convinced that whoever coined the phrase “God never gives you more than you can handle” did not try to keep a tiny human alive while her body was raging with postpartum hormones. In these last eight weeks, I definitely have felt like I can’t handle colic and reflux and sleepless nights, yet they aren’t going away anytime soon. My body, mind, and soul have been pushed beyond their limits, and only recently have I begun to really try to pay attention to how the Spirit is ministering to my soul. To be completely honest though, I’m not entirely sure how.
As I’ve held my screaming newborn, I’ve found myself praying to a God who I hope has time for a desperate and sleep-deprived new mama. I mean, with the world in shambles, as people cry out for literal liberation from the powers and principalities of this world, it seems all my theological understanding of a personal God has escaped me. Do I dare pray for God to help my baby to stop crying? Is it too much to ask for a nap and a little bit of “me time”? While I know in my head those things are not too petty to desire, my heart feels a little guilty asking for such small things.
The thing is, I would attribute this to my Enneagram three-ness. I’ve needed God to remind me a little something about vocation. For so long I’ve had big dreams and been caught up in seeking roles that seem truly shalom-bringing, wanting my impact in the world to be big and wide and deep in scope. This has played out in my passion to be a voice within the local church or my work in student development, shaping and sharing space with college students.
I haven’t considered the shalom-bringing work that is caring for a newborn.
Tish Harrison Warren reminded me, as I read my Kindle on my phone with one hand and held my nursing baby with another, that “peace is homegrown, beginning on the smallest scale.” She reminded me that there is no act of love that is too small—too ordinary—to manifest the Kingdom of God.
Warren would say that the acts of love that I give to my baby, however imperfect, including changing the diaper, sucking snot out of his stuffy nose, rocking endlessly, and even setting-him-down-because-I-am-too-overwhelmed-to-handle-his-crying-and-need-to-take-a-breath, are acts that when woven together help me to participate in shalom.
It’s small acts of love that help me practice being a peacemaker, and they each contribute to the in-breaking of shalom.
One of my crafty friends painted a sign for Theo’s room that says “The Kingdom belongs to such as these.” I’ve never considered an alternate understanding of that verse until now. Maybe the Kingdom belongs to such as these because as we care for our littles, God’s Kingdom breaks through. As we attempt to keep them alive or show them love by meeting their needs, we practice shalom-bringing. We pass the peace to those little ones who someday will hopefully pass the peace to someone else.
So I will continue to pray for God to help me calm my colicky baby. I will pray God would restore rest to me so I can be the best caretaker for him that is possible. And I will also pray that God will restore justice to our land. The fact of the matter is, our God is the God of justice and the God of postpartum, who blesses the small ordinary acts of a sleep-deprived new mom.