I used to be someone who could hold it all together or die trying.
Then I had eight kids.
Then I thought homeschooling them would be a brilliant plan.
Then I had to feed them three meals a day and do all the domestic stuff that keeps a household and adult sanity in tact.
Then I began to write and publish and edit for other people because I was bored (just kidding).
And I kid you not, there is a decade of my life in all of this that I barely remember. I have two children whose babyhoods escaped me entirely, as in, I don’t remember them as babies. Before you snap your laptop shut and write me off over that last confession, you have to know that they were born 14 months apart, at the end of the line-up and the beginning of tragedy, and it’s a doggone miracle that any of us had clean clothes.
I suspect that you have had a season very much like this, too, and if not, perhaps you’re not in the Western Hemisphere? Because we westerners and more specifically, Americans, spin plates like nobody’s business. Out the door with the spinning plates flies our concentration, leaving us with a sort of living whiplash.
Just today as I sat down on the living room couch to work on an article due this coming Friday, child #6 is searching for her make-up brush, child #7 is singing “Radio Gaga” at the top of his lungs and walking through the house looking for a glue stick, child #4 is Marco-Poloing me from college to debrief her Easter weekend, and child #5 needs to discuss her rehearsal schedule. Sometime within the next 8 hours, children #1, 2, and 3 will text me with a question, a request, or an anecdote.
I also have a long-suffering husband who needs dinner and who I married because I really, really like spending time with him. Child #8 hasn’t been mentioned yet because he’s at school, but that’s after a night in which he woke up his dad and me (separately) with complaints of stomach pain and diarrhea, both the result of too many Hot Cross Buns and Easter candy.
Somewhere in all of this I am supposed to be working on an article about the parables and reaching my own readers because I’m committed to helping people leave legalism with their faith somewhat in tact. And a high school lit course I’m preparing to teach. And laundry.
I laugh, painfully and ironically.
And sometimes I’m mad at God about it.
How does ministry happen in a life like this? When and how am I supposed to dedicate my time to study? I can’t recall what it’s like to concentrate on anything because there is never a time when I’m not interrupted by someone or the next door neighbor’s dogs. Focus eludes me.
I read about great Christians who came before me and I’m in awe of women like Catherine of Siena, who spent the first three years of adult life in seclusion in her parent’s basement so that she could commit herself to studying the Scriptures and to her deepening prayer life.
Well, yeah, I think. If I had three years by myself in a basement, I’d get pretty good at prayer, too.
I’m a little bit jealous.
I’m a lot jealous, if I’m being completely honest.
As I was listening this morning to a book about notable Christian women like Catherine, I began to feel like I had been robbed of an opportunity to use my overly curious brain and intelligence for the glory of God and the good of others. Good grief, the distractions in this household!
And then a tiny thought entered into my consciousness and wormed its way in like it had found a ripe, juicy apple.
What if God calls me to the distractions?
Ouch. What if? What if, in all of this whirlwind of never-ending activity and need, there is ministry happening in spite of the distractions? And what if, more to the point, ministry is happening because of the distractions?
What if the ministry is the distractions?
Catherine of Siena was the 25th child born to her parents. Mercy me. During the three years of seclusion, guess who was caring for, walking alongside, feeding, dressing, listening to, guiding, educating, and nurturing all of Catherine’s other siblings upstairs? Her mother, called to the distractions. The point was not lost on me.
Honestly (and let’s be honest), this is not a revelation that has totally changed my life today. I’m not writing this to tell you that my life has been radically changed by the realization that God has given me a poignant ministry opportunity right here in my home. Christendom has been clanging that gong on behalf of its mothers for centuries, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.
Honestly, I will still struggle because of my fractured, distracted brain and the circumstances of motherhood that do not allow me to have solitude, silence, or time. My friend Sallie Borrink has written an excellent piece on why gifted women (that’s me) struggle with the construction of motherhood. Might be helpful if you, too, have a hard time with all of this.
The brain remains distracted. The writing is what it is. The time spent with Christ alone is limited. But here’s the truth I will stand on until the day I die:
He knows this.
All of the spiritual growth born out of hearing and reading the Bible, praying, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines is his work, not mine. The real miracle is that God can take the 8 minutes I spent praying this morning and expand it to reach every person I come in contact with today, including you.
And while I still thrash against the unstructured ministry of the distractions that accompany serving others, I can relax knowing that God has promised to finish what He started.
The lesson for us all? Be still and know that he is God. Our ministry is fed by the knowing, not the doing.