Once upon a time, it was the worst day of my life.
On the eve of my son’s third birthday, his brain got infected. The outside world got in. It was only the tiniest little bit that found an entrance, just an itsy bitsy staphylococcus – an everyday kind of germ that we all keep around for company. But we can’t survive with it in our brain. So I found myself, somewhere around midnight after the unfortunate discovery, singing happy birthday to my son in a breaking voice as I laid his little trusting body on the operating table so doctors could get the infection out. It would be a long week before we could go home.
The next morning, when my brother came to visit, I asked if I could leave my infant son (who was along for the wild ride because he was nursing), and my newly-minted-three year old hidden under a maze of tubes and medicine, to run to the store to buy the birthday boy a toy tow truck. It was all he wanted. And I wanted clean underwear. I ran in and out. It was snowing lightly as I pulled away from the store. Another car came around the corner in the parking lot and slid into the driver’s side door of the car I had borrowed from my brother. The driver quickly parked and came over to be sure I wasn’t hurt. I blubbered my story of how it was my son’s birthday and he was in the hospital for emergency brain surgery and all he wanted was to blow out candles and he couldn’t because that’s illegal in the hospital. The man nodded sympathetically, then got in his car – and drove away before we could file a report and get insurance worked out.
That moment of betrayal, heaped on top of my exhaustion, stress, worry, and loneliness, ranks as one of the lowest points of my life.
It was bad.
But you know what happened in that moment? My son needed me. So I drove back to the hospital, crumpled on his sterile bed, and held him – and begged God for strength. And God gave it.
Not a lot. Too much would probably have made me capable of doing dangerous things, especially to the guy who drove away from the teary-eyed woman in the disheveled Subaru in the parking lot that cold January day three years ago.
But it was enough.
I felt so helpless. I couldn’t fix my son. I couldn’t even celebrate his birthday. I couldn’t even run to the store without someone’s property getting destroyed! I was insufficient. I just couldn’t even.
In that moment, God came near. And I knew that the prayers of hundreds of friends were – at that very moment – storming the throne of heaven with our names. And He heard. And God came near.
I remember that moment, because today, a friend is going through the same valley of the shadow. She is watching her baby daughter struggle with insidious evil germs threatening her little brain. It is a horrible place to be for a mom. But thousands of other moms are live-streaming petitions to the throne of heaven on her behalf. And God is listening.
The first woman – the first mom on earth – was named Eve. Her name in Hebrew is Chavvah, or “life-giver.” It’s Zoe in Greek, meaning “preserver of life, life-spring”.
This woman, Eve, was the first woman to talk with God, the first to know Him.
She was first to revel in His creation, to enjoy His goodness.
And she was the first person on earth to sin.
She was the first to realize she no longer had the right to dwell with God.
She was first to miss Him.
Eve, created to be “life-giver” to all future generations, was the first to lose intimate fellowship with the Creator of life.
It was a horrible realization. She was not enough. She could not make it right.
In His love for Eve, in His desire for her to fulfill her purpose as life giver to all future generations – God made a way for her to be restored.
She was saved by His grace. (“By grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9). All moms since have the same chance.
We can be restored to a deep relationship with God by the Word of God dwelling with us. (“The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” John 1:14).
And God has (often) used a big-eyed, naked toddler covered in my lipstick, sitting on my once-white bedspread (just hypothetically speaking) to reveal to me the very depths of my insufficiency. It ain’t pretty. (I mean my dark and frustrated heart. But also the bedsheets.)
My children have showed me, like nothing else, that I cannot survive without a direct line of communication with the life-Maker.
This past Wednesday, I spent the morning busy.
I woke, stretched, and found clothes for myself and three others. I started the laundry. I took a shower (and was only interrupted once). I wiped down the bathroom. I drank cold coffee and ate three strips of cold bacon. I fed kids. I (tried to) clean hard boiled egg yolk off the chair. I dressed children. I wiped noses (and other things.) I read and explained a Bible story. I broke up fights. I did fractions and adding and multiplication with four separate children while keeping the two youngest from (totally) dismantling the living room. I paid some bills. I took a child to the doctor. I made up a story to keep him occupied in the sterile office. I gave up my granola bar to feed the backseat driver. I gave up my water bottle. I bought several gallons of milk. I bought the still hungry caterpillar (aka the growing three-year-old child) a sandwich. I kept time shamelessly as he danced to the restaurant muzak. I got home to relieve grandma of duty. I changed more diapers. I cleaned the kitchen. I paid for piano lessons. I put the little two down for nap. I put the little two down for nap – again. I confiscated a video game. I pulled bread rolls out of the freezer for supper. I glanced at Facebook and saw a post that a friend’s baby had been admitted to the hospital for bacterial meningitis. And I stopped everything. And I prayed.
Because in all the business – the busy-ness – of motherhood, that direct line of communication has been more precious than any ability I possess.
As my friend’s baby girl lies in a sterile medical world surrounded by wires and lights and foreign smells, hurting and fragile and in desperate need of a miracle, it makes me pause. I have looked into my own child’s eyes, wide from pain and fear, as he sat small in a big white hospital bed, fighting sinister germs that attacked his own brain. I have turned away so he would not see tears fall. I would love to wrap my children in bubble wrap so they would never know hurt or evil. But that’s not the answer (nor very practical.)
I have often wondered at the verse that states “She will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (I Timothy 2:15)
Or maybe it means that “they” who continue in faith, love, and holiness – “they” are the community who holds up her arms when they are weak from mothering. They petition heaven on her behalf when she is too exhausted to lift up her head. They care for her children’s needs when she cannot. They continue – so that she will be preserved in this most important work of life giving.
So we pray.
As mom, I am first to realize I am unable to fix all my children’s problems. I am first to know I am not enough.
But I know Who is.
There is One Who can say “I AM.”
We mother on.
We mother – on our knees.