Yesterday I had the chance to spend some time with my long-time friend, Beth. We reconnected after a God-given encounter at my church. It was reunion that has led to deeper ministry opportunities for both of us, which is why I cannot call this a “chance encounter.” It was truly a God-appointed meeting.
I walked into Beth’s house and found toys scattered about, her two of her three kids enthusiastically bouncing about, and a baking project that was started, but not finished on the kitchen counter. “We were going to make you caramel apple brownies,” said Beth with a playful giggle. She shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “This is my life, every bit of it…and I love it. Welcome to Mommyhood!”
Mommyhood seems tough. I am fully convinced stay-at-home mom’s are warriors.
As the kids warmed up to me, Beth and I began talking about what we’ve been doing since we last talk, really talked. She had three kids (a couple born with challenging medical conditions), wrote a book, and a few Bible studies. And I graduated from seminary, got sick, walked away from church, came back to church, and am involved in full-time volunteer ministry. We talked about some of the heartaches spelling out “adult” words to protect innocent little ears. We shared from our hearts, the way only two old friends can do. There’s something in my soul said, “Where were you? I needed to have this conversation. Today. With you.”
Beth explained how mommyhood has changed her and made her a much less selfish person as we watch her son jump from a chair into a pile of pillows. “There’s no point in having new furniture with small children,” she told me as she instructed her son to use a sofa cushion to create a softer, safer landing spot. “Boys are just going to jump off things, so I try to find ways to make it safer.” And jump he did.
She learned about mothering early in her marriage to my dear friend, Chris. Inheriting a daughter from a previous marriage, Chris and Beth had visitation with “Emily” every other weekend. During one meeting, Emily’s mom said that Emily wasn’t feeling well and sure enough, Emily soon vomited all over herself and started crying. Beth tried to comfort Emily without getting puke on her expensive leather jacket. Realizing how ridiculous she was being, Beth threw her leather jacket in the back of the car, gathered the crying, pukey girl in her arms, and comforted her getting vomit all over herself in the process.
The story struck me, not only because I hate vomit, but because that’s what ministry is like. Oh, we think of all the great things that will happen, the souls that will be saved, the Bible studies we’ll lead, the conference speakers we’ll get. At the end of the day, ministry is standing in the church parking lot until 11 PM with a crying woman who doesn’t know if her husband loves her or praying with a distraught church member in the middle of Wal-mart. Sometimes ministry is getting the vomit of someone else’s life all over you because they need a comforting hug of encouragement.
As I’m writing, I can’t help but think of Jesus, who came to earth to clean up the vomitous mess we made. Hanging on a cross for my sin—my vomit—so that I could go free. What love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! What love, indeed!
I wonder what God thinks when we jump off chairs onto pillows—does He make the landing safer for us? When our big brother steals our stuffed unicorn, does He hold us when we cry? Does He laugh when we toddle around the room trying to dance to a Newsboys song? Does God, our Father, treasure us as much as Beth treasures her precious children? I believe so.
Adventures in Mommyhood are as much a lesson in cleaning up kid vomit as they are in ministering to our children (or our friends’ children), to those around us, and a startling revelation in how our Perfect Father deals with His very imperfect children. Because He first loved us, we can extravagantly love others, mess and all. In fact, it’s those who are crying, covered in sickness that most need our comfort, even if it means throwing our leather jacket of ministry expectations in the trunk of our “rescue vehicle”. Let’s take a lesson from the One who put aside His glory to be born as a baby so He could take our sickening vomit away forever.