Things are changing around here as Jackson rounds the corner of being 9 months old. The Bible study that has been a cornerstone for me has moved locations because our babies outgrew the first space. We have very busy cruisers and walkers getting into all the toys; three of the mamas are expecting new babies. Life is continuing on! As we say goodbye to the beautiful, quiet days of infancy and journey forward together in motherhood it is kind of bittersweet. It all passed by so quickly. I really cherished 2016, with Jackson’s nine months in and nine months out.
The host of this Bible study — a good friend and Godmother to my son — reminded us that anything good can become an idol, including our comfortable little group of friendships. We are called to move beyond our comfort, to seek out new and potentially struggling people and bring them to Christ. We are not called to settle for huddling together in comfort. She reminded us of the purpose of our Bible study: to foster deep transformation, authentic community, and spiritual multiplication. That last one means we must be attached to Jesus Christ, not attached to each other.
When the Tulsa March For Life happened last month, I remember Bishop Konderla echoing something similar in his homily. He said that we have to choose Jesus Christ over unity, a pretty counter-cultural idea. Jesus is where everything begins. He is the True foundation. If we choose unity over Truth — if we choose to not ‘rock the boat’ in order to foster community or avoid disagreement, if we choose our comfort over what is right — everything True and moral will suffer for it and ultimately we as a people will fail. We first have to follow Him, and then pursue unity. Anything else would be well-intentioned but misguided idolatry.
That said, as we moved forward, I had been asked to host another Bible study with new friends and acquaintances, which I agreed to with honor. Today was the first time we met. Another counter cultural idea was presented: questioning our access to convenience. This really struck a chord with me as I had just done a Facebook Live video earlier in the day about our children urging us forward, inconveniently, because of their needs, and yet how it in turn benefits us. Today was one of those days that if it weren’t for Jackson i might have just moped around, ate ice cream, and binged on Netflix in bed. My brain, body, soul and emotions all would’ve suffered if I had conveniently had it my way. Instead, God knew what He was doing when He called me to motherhood. He is gently urging me, as He does, toward selflessness ultimately for my wellbeing. Because everything He leads us to is for our good, even if it doesn’t feel good.
I have experienced the detriments of convenience from when I was living in NYC. Not only did I not have to work to pay my own way — I was a student and expected to focus on my studies — but I could have everything “conveniently” delivered to my door. Food, groceries, drugs, frozen yogurt, people. I never had to lift a finger or interact with anyone. This really played into my tendency toward seclusion and depression. It made those choices easy. The problem was everything that fed my soul was outside of my apartment and was inconvenient to seek out: sunshine and exercise, true friendships which require work and commitment, nourishing food which requires planning and grocery shopping… the list goes on and on. I didn’t realize that I was slowly dying on the inside, and I was the one killing myself! The culture of convenience of course enabled me to do so. As long as you had money they didn’t care what state your body, mind or soul was in. However I really underestimated the value of hard work, discomfort or inconvenience.. that the results might not be immediately satisfying, the but long term payoff makes it all worth while. This means I cannot take advice from our current culture. I must shuck the laissez-faire “I’ll just settle for this” attitude of all of the convenience fast food, fast friends, fast money blah blah blah offers us. I need to look at the bigger picture which is further out. I’ve never been too strategic of a person, so this is a big shift for me. But it’s possible, and its worth it. When you’ve realized you’ve hit a dead end, it’s not too late to turn around and follow new directions.
As an adult, a mom, a wife, a business owner and a friend, I am finally starting to learn these lessons (thank you Jesus!). I want something better for my children, however. I don’t want them to struggle and suffer in the same way I did, learning these lessons so late in life. Which means I need to work hard right now to set the foundation for them to understand the value of hard work later. It means that I have to forgo instant gratification myself in order to teach them why the long term payoff is better. The “do as I say not as I do” routine will not be implemented in my house. This takes a lot of self-disclipline, intentionality and support. Lots of support. There’s a reason they say “it takes a village”.
A friend gave a great example of all of the above today at Bible study. The weather here in Tulsa was absolutely gorgeous on Tuesday. Mid seventies. We were all outside. But my friend, who is VERY pregnant with her fifth child felt too tired, pained and unmotivated to take her kids to the park. It seemed like too much work with too little payout. Her sister is in town and was absolutely adamant that they all go outside (this is the village part). So my friend pulled her troupe together, went to the park, got some vitamin D and went home. Her kids were so thrilled with being outside that they actually begged her to stay in the backyard when they came home. She was able to doze on the couch as her littlest one napped. That was nearly three hours of undisturbed mama time which almost never happens! So, see, at first she didn’t see the big picture. How could she know that’s how it would turn out? But by shirking the convenience impulse and doing something that served her kids even when she didn’t feel like it, it not only benefitted them (in multiple ways) but it also benefitted her.
There are tons of examples of hard work and discomfort paying off. Go to the gym, get fit. Eat healthy, enjoy wellness. But we forget this when all we are marketed is a instant gratification culture. There’s a pill for this, there’s an app for that, there’s “friendship” online. I’m not saying social media is evil or anything, but nothing compares to interacting with people face to face, which seems to be a dying art.
We don’t know what we don’t know until we try. Just doing a liiiiittle bit more than we normally would can have huge impacts not only on ourselves but on those around us. And then the little bit can turn into a lot of a bit, because we see that it works, that it’s not that hard, that it’s extremely rewarding and that the other option not only does us harm but makes us feel like crap about ourselves and our lives. And life is far too precious to feel like crap about.
So #MomOn, party people. It’s worth it.