Picking jello up off of the kitchen floor with my bare hands is not what I signed up for when I decided to become a mother. But I’d have to say it’s not even close to the grossest thing I’ve done. Not even the grossest thing I’ve picked up off the kitchen floor. Actually, I don’t want to talk about my kitchen floor anymore. It is NEVER clean, not even seconds after I mop it, and the thought of it makes me shudder. Clean floors were just one of the minor sacrifices I made when I became a mother. The major ones are a lot messier than my floor, and can’t be remedied with bleach and a little elbow grease.
We go bravely into motherhood, armed with only a vague inkling of all that we will be asked to do. It seems better that way. After all, nobody wants to sit around at baby showers and tell of the shameful amount of times we have thrown up a little in our mouths because of something the darling child in our family photos has done. Some things are better as a surprise.
But some things aren’t. And no one sits around at baby showers talking about all the ways that those little ones will break your heart. But maybe they should. Oh, we know it won’t be rosy, chocolate-covered kisses all the time. We aren’t that naïve. But we also aren’t expecting the feelings of hopelessness or irrational anger, the tears. We aren’t ready for the feelings of inadequacy about our ability to do the very thing we hoped and prayed that we would be able to do. It can feel, at times, like we are barely hanging on. And there is deep shame buried at the bottom that feeling. And the feeling that we are alone in this. That no one else feels this way.
And that’s why we don’t share it, with new moms or anyone else. That’s why we skirt around the edges of our frustrations with our kids and say things to our friends like, “Billy is really giving me a run for my money lately…I just don’t know what I am going to do with Sally…Jack is going through a rough phase right now,” instead of what we want to say, which is, “I feel like I am drowning…I feel so angry sometimes that it makes me afraid…I feel like I cannot do all that I need to do….I am really hurting.” Instead we offer up more palatable versions of our pain, certain that the truth would be too much to ask of our people.
And this isn’t just true in parenting. Obviously. We don’t tend to share about our other struggles…in our marriage, in ministry, in every day life because we are certain someone else is worse off than us. That’s definitely true. That someone else might judge us. That might be true. That we shouldn’t burden someone else with our problems. That’s not true. In fact, that’s the opposite of true.
That’s a lie.
The truth is, we are meant to bear each other’s burdens. (Hello, Galatians 6:2… “but I’d rather be the burden bearer…not the burdener,” you say. Tough luck, sista. We’re both.) When we look each other in the eyes and speak about the painful truths of life, and when we hear and receive as someone offers us the good and deeper truths of the Gospel, we minister to each other. We remind each other that we are not alone, in our pain or in the grace that is enough to cover it. We remind each other that we are not made for this world. We remind each other that Christ lives in us, is working in us, for our good. Both of us. Ministering to each other. Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Recently, Loren gave a sermon at church about living within the New Covenant. He talked about how, as the church, we are to be an example of New Covenant living with each other. Part of that means this offering of grace to one another…that we represent Christ as we say, out loud, to each other, “you are not alone…you are loved…you are forgiven…God is working good in you.” Big tears well up in my eyes even as I write this, because as he spoke I felt a deep “yes” well up in my soul at the thought of fellow believers speaking Christ’s truth over me. Out loud. Reminding me of what is most true.
In this way, the Church becomes the New Covenant version of altars. We are set up in people’s lives to be reminders of the truth. We are the BODY OF CHRIST, anointing each other with this truth and with love and peace and forgiveness. His voice, speaking words that heal and sustain and move us forward in love. His hands, reaching out to hug. His feet, walking alongside, making certain we know we are not alone.
A dear friend did this for me last week and it was powerful. The hope of Christ in her, speaking His words over me. “You are not alone…His yoke is easy and His burden is light.” My husband did this for me two weeks ago when I had an especially hard parenting day. “You are forgiven…God loves you so much.” On either of those days I could have spiraled downward…could have spent all day replaying my mistakes, sinking beneath the burdens I carried. It’s what I would typically do. Instead, the truth of Christ made all things new. I was able to receive his love and then move forward, confident in his good plans for me, in his ability to carry the heavy load.
The work of parenting is far more difficult than I ever imagined. And life is filled with burdensome things. It just is. And the undeniable joys of it all don’t negate the fact that, sometimes, I feel at the bottom of a deep, dark well made of disappointments and brokenness and fear and my own unreasonable expectations. Saying it out loud almost always feels like freedom. And I know, thank you Jesus, that there is grace enough to cover it all. Sometimes I just need to hear it. Sometimes we all need to hear it.