Over the past few weeks, I have been meditating on the Biblical concept of a quiet and gentle spirit during my devotions. The kind voice, gentle touches, uplifting words, and sweet gestures I read about are the very essence of motherhood (womanhood-dare I say?). It is the tenderness that brings love and security into the home and wraps each of its members with a warm embrace.
I am typically a very passionate and driven person, however, so being quiet and gentle is a bit of a challenge for me. You can bump that up a bit when you add a rowdy dog and three kids under the age of seven to the mix, including a newborn.
Yes, it’s been a bit crazy around here. There are always quite a bit of projects left undone, and it is taking everything in me to let go of the perfectionism that keeps tugging at me. It was one particular day, however, that almost sent me over the edge.
The baby had decided to stay up all night, and the kids thought it would be fun to wake up early demanding breakfast and a wrestle fest. It was all that I could do to strip myself from the bed and inch my way to the kitchen. I made a cup of coffee–my first cup in years–and somehow dove into the chaos that was my home that day.
I managed to start a load of laundry, plop whole apples on plates for snacks, fix lunch amid the dirty dishes and disheveled pantry, nurse the baby (over and over again), and ultimately, avoid my daughter’s room, which looked like a toy store had vomited all over her floor and splashed up onto her bed and dresser. It had been raining for days on end by that point, so our home was full of pent-up energy that exploded in crying fits, fussing, whining, and random shouts and karate kicks that managed to escape from my son every so often. You could only imagine the strung-out state of this sleep-deprived mama. It was not good.
But, of course, that was when it happened. I was on my way to the restroom for a much-needed two-minute break. All I wanted was to shut the door, hear the click of the lock, and have a tiny drop of quiet as I took care of business. I managed to shut the door, (check!) hear the click of the lock (check!), but the tiny drop of quiet was replaced with a thundering three-year-old, yelling down the hall, “Mommy!!! Mommy!!!” (fail).
I leaned my head back against the wall of my small sanctuary and closed my eyes to block the intruder. I prayed over and over again for The Lord to help me and kept reminding myself, Quiet and Gentle Spirit, Quiet and Gentle Spirit.
Of course, my mind was anything but quiet and gentle. It loudly played every little thought that jumped into action:
Can’t I get a break around here?!!!??
SSSSHHHHHHH!!! Don’t yell down the hall!
What are you thinking??? Can’t you see the baby is sleeping?!
When Mommy is in the restroom, WE DON’T BOTHER HER!
Please just leave me alone. No seriously, go away!
And then came the thuds as she made her way to the door. KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! “Mommy!!! Mommy!!!”
I did my best to flush the harsh words out of my mind and kept praying to myself.
“Yes, sweetheart,” I managed to say in the kindest voice I could muster. (score!)
“Mommy, are you in there?”
“Yes, I am. What do you need?” Still a soft voice with just a slight bit of edge. (double score!)
There was a brief pause on the other side of the door, then “I love you, Mommy.”
I shut my eyes as a small tear forced itself past my eyelid and rushed down my cheek. “I love you, too, Sweetheart.”
I then heard her tiny footsteps run back down the hall in the opposite direction, leaving me alone in the now-too-quiet sanctuary.
I sat with my thoughts for those couple of minutes. What if I had let those ugly words trickle under the door and drench her on the other side? What if I had ignored my heart’s plea for a softer response? Or worse, how many times had I done just that and responded with a not-so-quiet and gentle spirit?
Those sweet words, “I love you, Mommy,” spoke to my heart louder than anything else that day. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and hanging by a thread, but all that didn’t matter to my three-year-old. She didn’t need it to matter. She just needed to share her love and receive mine as well. She needed to know that all was okay, and I needed to give her that.
A few days after this experience, the rain slowed down, and we shuffled about, doing our best to get in the van for a “quick” trip to the grocery store. The shuffling and loading took longer than the trip itself, and as I plopped myself behind the steering wheel, I let out a “That was crazy!!!” sigh of relief–only I actually spoke it. . . loudly. The kids looked at one another then at me through the mirror with confused looks on their faces, “What was crazy, Mommy???”
Nothing at all, I thought to myself as I reflected once again on the sweet reminder that they don’t see things as I do. Their actions are not meant to frustrate me or upset me–at least not most days. They are just being kids. It is up to me to be the gentle and quiet spirit they need to uplift and grow them a little bit each day.
Yes, motherhood is a learning process. There are times when I feel justified in my frustrations, times when I think it would be perfectly okay to demand my “me time” and shout until I get it. There are times when I feel entitled to a perfectly-orchestrated day without the stumbling blocks of childhood . . . and then, I feel the slight tugging of the Holy Spirit on my heart. There is no room for a childish mother in our home. I must grow as well, for true maturity in Christ is grounded in selflessness and love.
I am learning alongside our children, learning to lean on God through it all in order to be the example they will one day emulate. I am learning the importance of grace and forgiveness for when they fall short . . . and just as importantly, when I do. Yes, I am learning, but ultimately I am praying for the softness that encompasses Biblical motherhood, the gentleness that captures their hearts for Christ.
A quiet and gentle spirit . . . yes, that sounds about right.