This past December, my husband and I welcomed a new member into our family, Owen. In the months leading up to his birth, I was all in on reading to prepare for taking care of a baby: the classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the Christian book Made for This on childbirth, and the baby whisperer book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, kindly gifted to me by a friend.
In addition to having a handy dandy best friend who is an OBGYN, I read all the articles on Lucie’s List and did extensive research on baby products. Even in the midst of all this learning I knew none of it was actually going to adequately prepare me for the trial by fire experience of having a little human we’re suddenly responsible for. All this — while I’m recovering from what the comedian Ali Wang calls someone’s house being evicted from your body. No big deal!
Upon Owen’s arrival, a few things changed:
- I was no longer bothered by other babies crying
- My marriage requires a lot more intentionality and work as our identities shifted simultaneously
- I had to rely on family to help me do basic things like pick something up off the ground (albeit, this was a temporary condition during postpartum, and yet one I had never experienced)
But most significantly, my time with God changed. Gaining insights on the character of Christ is a new ball game now as a result of my attention being re-allocated to a small, dependent, precious child.
Suddenly, daily ten-minute long uninterrupted prayer time became a thing of the past for me. Instead, prayer looked like going on a walk and hoping he falls asleep in the carrier so I can talk to God.
If that wasn’t possible, prayer often becomes me simply saying, “Jesus.” Or when I hear of someone struggling, instead of having a thoughtful prayer for them, it’s simply just saying, “Jesus, help them in their new relationship, their grief of their relative’s passing, etc.”
Yet… there is grace.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.2 Corinthians 12:9
Suddenly, finding time to prepare for Bible study looks like reading the chapter in one sitting via the Bible app, and having to pick it back up later to answer the questions, which usually are answered in my head rather than being written down… Doing it all together was no longer a feasible endeavor.
Yet… there is mercy.
Suddenly, intentional time with my husband is often interrupted by a cry to be changed, held, or fed. Being able to “outserve” the other is a whole different ball game now…
Yet… there is grace.
Suddenly, time at church fundamentally shifted. As difficult as it often is for anyone to completely focus, it is multiplied as a parent. I found myself at a Christmas Eve service in the corridor swinging a baby round and round amidst a small quorum of parents in a similar situation.
Of course, these examples are wholly commonplace for any parent of a baby or young child, which I realized every time these thoughts crossed my mind. And each time they did, I remembered one of these two words: Grace. Mercy.
The Holy Spirit will still work in and through me in my own life and the lives of those around me, even as I wade through the waters of parenthood for many years to come.
Though my prayers may be much shorter for a time, they will still be heartfelt and heard. That is grace. That is mercy.
Even on days when I know I need time with the Lord desperately but find it difficult if not impossible to actually focus while saying a prayer, there is grace. There is mercy.
Parenthood as worship
In fact, mercy is so near, that perhaps it is particularly near as a nursing mom:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Romans 12:1
Offering our bodies up as a living sacrifice — as mothers who nurse their children — that is worship. That is an opportunity to see God’s mercy.
I don’t know how this story will evolve over the years, but one thing I have already learned: Parenthood is an act of worship. And through that worship, He will always give grace. He will always have mercy on us.