She sits in her highchair grabbing little bits of cheese and shoving blueberries in her mouth faster than she can chew. She dangles her sippy cup over the edge of the tray, looks at me out of the corner of her eye, and then decides to hand it back instead of dropping it on the floor. At thirteen months, she’s testing the limits, learning her boundaries, and questioning my authority. It’s the game every child plays as they figure out life consists of rules, and children must obey.
I quietly eat my lunch, try to make a phone call, take another sip of water, and run to help her older brother in the bathroom. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but he’s finally potty trained. How is it possible I’ve been wiping bottoms daily for ten years? I crane my neck around the doorway to make sure his sister isn’t climbing out of the highchair, and then help him pull up his pants. We wash our hands, and as I reach for the towel, I notice the baseboards are dusty. I grab a baby wipe from the counter and give it a good, hard scrub.
Back in the dining room, I wipe off faces, clear the table and sweep the pretzels and bread crumbs from under the chairs. I move the wet clothes to the dryer, and hoist the laundry basket of clean ones onto my hip. How do we have so many unmatched socks? And what is that smell? I notice three plastic bags in the corner, knotted at the top. Oh, I forgot to throw out the dirty diapers this morning. I’ll get to it later.
My morning had been a flurry of packing lunches, fixing breakfasts, and chasing after my son who ran outside barefoot in his pajamas to find his Daddy. I had to apologize to my husband for being defensive about what happened, and to my children for overreacting. In between getting dressed and brushing my teeth, two children needed discipline, another one pooped in his pull-up, twice, and we were almost late to school.
By 8:30 this morning, I was already spent. But the day marched on and I kept pouring out.
After folding and sorting another load of laundry, we plop onto the floor to build a train track. A big one, he says, with a tunnel up top. If I ever need to update my resume, I’ll be sure to add engineer, maybe even conductor. We put the baby down for her nap and settle in to read a few stories. We snuggle on his bed, and as I shut the door behind me, I take a deep breath and sigh.
Ninety minutes. This is how long I have before school pick-up, naps are over, and the busy afternoon rush of bouncing from need to need begins.
It’s not enough.
If we added up all the hours of missed sleep from a decade of parenting, it would probably take years to catch up. Add to this amount the number of days or weeks you’ve gone without alone time, and you’re looking at another few months, at the very least.
Pouring our lives out for the good of our children can’t be measured, and as much as we try to fill it back up in equal weight, we’ll never really gain it back.
So, how do you recharge your soul, rest your body, finish your to-do list, and plan for tomorrow in an hour and a half? How do we keep serving and loving our kids when we feel like there’s nothing left to give?
We fix our gaze on Jesus and let our children feast on his goodness.
Jesus kept his gaze fixed on the joy of being reunited with his Father. He endured. He pushed toward the pain and suffering of the cross because he knew his obedience would result in redemption for the church, and restoration with his Father.
Was it easy for him? Of course not. Did he want to quit? Absolutely. So much so that he sweat drops of blood on the night before his death, as he pleaded with God for another way. The stress and the agony of what he knew was coming was just too much for his physical body to endure.
Still, he moved on. He took the crown of thorns, he felt the crushing blows as they hammered the nails into his feet and hands. He felt forsaken by his Father. He was emptied and spilled out.
For us. For the glory of the Father. For the sake of his name.
Because of his emptiness on the cross, we are filled. We receive his righteousness, we’re granted forgiveness, we’re given access to the Father. All that was lacking in our separation from God is now filled to overflowing through Christ. We are hidden with Christ in God. We carry in us Christ, the hope of glory.
Our emptiness enables us to experience the fullness of Christ.
From him we can extend our empty hands and offer up abundance. Through him we are able to open our arms to welcome in, to give, and to serve, time and time again. By him we move toward our children in acts of love and sacrifice.
We come to the table and sit around it together, feasting on the goodness of God.