Some days, more often than not, it feels like it is all about to come crashing down hard around you. With nothing but a plank to keep you up in that ocean.
I have these out-of-body moments when for about a minute I stop and look around. It’s usually in the kitchen where plates and pans are stacked way too high and I feel like I’ve been yelling at the kids about something every 10 minutes.
Stop hitting each other. Stop hitting me. Stop fighting over the blocks. Stop ganking all the markers. Stop hitting me. Stop throwing food on the floor. Stop throwing the iPad on the floor. Stop chasing each other. Stop kicking each other. Stop hitting me.
The laptop is on top of some barely used Paleo cookbooks and open on social media with an update about someone’s vacation in Europe or a perfect family Christmas photo, and I’m wondering, What the hell am I doing? The youngest has discovered he can magically color himself into a tiger with the markers, and the twins are trying to make a spiderweb out of yarn that expands the entire downstairs.
“The real “work” of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing — that demands real effort.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Before I spiral down into complete and utter despair, I come across a quote on an Instagram account about surrender by one of the great theological writers of our time, and I automatically think: Yeah, easy and awesome to surrender when you don’t have to negotiate who’s turn it is to pick the Wild Kratts episode for three children under the age of 5 all day long.
I stop, and ponder it for a moment. No spouse, no children, no work really but to come up with profound insights about the contemplative life. Of course, solitude and quiet, surrender and trust, and prayer are all totally attainable! So I laugh, thinking about the last time I had enough mental and emotional space to engage the quiet in a way that fed my soul. It was when I was on pilgrimage to a monastic community in France called Taizé. Six months ago.
I push through dinner and when it is finally consumed — all the milk drunk to the dregs, and plates with crumbs and crusty forks, I force them into their crocs and outside. So, I can breathe for a moment. So, I can gather the pieces of my sanity together to push through to bedtime. I ponder surrender again, and how it’s less leaning in and more giving in. Giving into these moments and then honestly, with my whole, desperate self, asking for help to see what matters in the moment. I look out the window and see them making a leaf pile to jump in. It’s September. I laugh and laugh because that is one tiny stack of leaves but they are giddy. No longer do I sink into some kind of oblivion but I find a way to step out into those waves, and I can stumble forward to the one calls me in faith.
It’s like a droplet of grace. And, it’s enough. Then, later they apologize to me for yelling and I apologize, too, and it’s the strangest, fullest cup of grace I’ve ever tasted in my life.
“Remember, you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and with those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to the eternal life. Choose it, and it will be yours.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love