I sat in the sanctuary last Sunday, thirsty for the message I was sure would come from our pastor who had been on study leave the month prior. He always returns from those times so energized with new insights gleaned in the quite space of a study leave.
Quiet space. Hmm. Not so accustomed to that place. I do enjoy it, but choosing the quiet space is hard when there is so little of it to be had in a life with three children ten and under, a very demanding “part-time” job, a marriage I invest in and the beautiful blessings of family, friends, exercise, sleep, etc. When I choose quiet space, I am choosing not to do something else – and this is quite a hard discipline of self.
Not only had I reflected on how great it was that my pastor had had that quiet space away, but he actually spoke about that very topic. He starting by teaching the children about quiet space and related it to “time outs,” telling the children that he was putting all of us parents in “time out.” He explained that this “time out” was for reading the word of God, studying it and soaking in the message God speaks to each of our hearts.
This mama was saying in her head…”Yes, please. Please put me in time out. Now. Please. I so want to have this uninterrupted time with the Lord. But I will also need a clone.”
After the sermon, it was time for communion. My husband went to assist in the passing of the bread and the grape juice to all who had come, all who believe, all who had taken “time out” that morning to be in worship. I sat beside my two boys, seven and ten, as the soft familiar communion music played and the plates began to be passed. I whispered to my seven-year old, “You remember what this means, buddy?” I got the eye roll he is so good at right now. “Yes, mom, it’s a symbol of Jesus’s body and blood.” Well, even if I still hadn’t squelched the eye rolling, at least my boy knew the meaning of communion…
My oldest took the bread square, passed the plate to my middle child who took his piece of bread (after touching a different one) and then it was my turn (don’t worry, I took the one my middle child had first touched). And then, we had to wait until all were served the bread to take it together, symbolizing our unity as the body of Christ. Oh boy. I had not sat with both boys, by myself, while waiting to eat the communion bread. It then donned on me…these boys are going to have to hold this very thin and porous bread in their hot little hands without eating or destroying it for the next five minutes. I felt my blood pressure rise.
My oldest rolled his bread into a ball about the size of a raisinette. My middle tore his in half, stuck one half under his body and started to tear the remaining half in half again. I was watching, whispering, holding (squeezing) their hands or arms (or the nape of their necks), glaring, getting up and sitting in between them in the middle of the passing of the bread, thinking…please pastor…please, just put me in time out! Just how am I to do a quiet anything when I am in the thick of nonsense like this!
I then spent the following week with my three kids at the beach. There were so many times I wanted to read or write in a quiet space with God. I imagined having that space without the demands of home, work or the regular schedule to take up time. I did manage a very small amount of it, but certainly not the amount I envisioned.
Whether it was opening my computer to write and “briefly” checking my work email, only to find a pressing request that demanded attention, “briefly” scrolling social media, only to be sucked into its often wicked web, or “briefly” assuring the kids’ attention was captured to protect my quiet space, only to have them break out in whine or shouts at what was not fair or right in their worlds, the little quiet time I did have quickly escaped me. I stopped in my hamster wheel of thoughts and tasks and fell flat on my face. I cried out…oh, how little quiet space I have and how hard must I really to work to protect it, prioritize it and to be present in it?
I found myself in a place of desperately needing to chose my distractions and interruptions keeping me from quiet space my soul deeply longs for. I had purposefully chosen to emerge from my beach-chair-quiet-space, book in hand, after reading a mere two pages… to build a sand castle, jump waves, pull a 4-year-old on a boogie board across the water’s edge, fetch a snack, nurse a wound, wipe salt-watered eyes, search for shark teeth, point out dolphins cresting the tops of the waves with their fins.
Those interruptions – those are the ones I will not regret, those are the ones that have been carved out for me, and only me, as a mother to these particular three souls, to see God in the flesh, in the innocent, in the miracle that is each life.
I realized then that, right now, my “time outs” with God are the moments when I am obedient to Him in the raising of these little raisinette-bread-rolling-wave-jumpers. My quiet spaces with God just don’t look like they used to or how they will when this season of life has passed.
I looked into my daughters twinkling green eyes as I picked her up, swung her legs and heard her giggle as I carried her little body over the break of the waves. I saw such light, such love as I was fully in that moment. The moment was just that…a moment, but it made me think of all of the moments my Heavenly Father looks down at my own green eyes when I look up to Him, when I let Him carry me through the rough crashing waters of life…
I looked at my seven-year-old as he approached me, shyly as I was reading that book…”Mom, can you come jump waves with just me?” I looked at him as I said, “Yes.” His shy head tilt turned into a wide eyed grin as he skipped to the water’s edge looking back at me the whole way, delighted in my setting aside time for just him. Another moment, another opportunity for me to consider how delighted my Heavenly Father is when I choose to say yes to Him, when I leave what I am doing that just might be good too… to join Him, just He and I, carelessly skipping towards the vast ocean of life without a worry about what may lie ahead…
I looked at my oldest, his face beaming, “Mom, this was the best day of my life.” We had done nothing but run around at the ocean’s edge, frolicking in the vast space of the coast. He had caught fish with a bucket, as I had forgotten his fish net. He had discovered little crabs crawling between the logs of a dock. He had eaten peanut butter and jelly for the third day in a row. “What was so wonderful about this day, buddy?” I asked. He replied, wide grin and smiling eyes, “Mom, I felt happy all day long.” It was in the expanse of quiet freedom and monotonous peanut butter and jelly that my oldest found himself struck happy. It jolted me as I thought about just how delighted my Heavenly Father must be when I am able to be fully attentive in the simple, often mundane appearing moments where His still small voice is the most powerful.
There is an old saying, “less is more” and oh, how that has resonated with me since that sermon one week ago. It’s time, as my 40th birthday quickly approaches, to do less of the things that cause me to miss out on the “more” moments of a life with God. As the world moves faster, I am finding the need to move more purposefully, even more slowly. Quiet, monotonous, PB and J days, enhanced by the pregnant beauty of God’s creation are where my current “time outs” exist. May my mind be purposefully focused on Him so that I can find such peace. Amen.
“He will keep me in perfect peace, me whose mind is stayed on Him, because I trust in Him…” (Isaiah 26:3).