Yesterday, my husband and I were driving to church for the morning service - not our own church, as we were staying with relatives for the weekend. The conversation went something like :
Me: Who's going out with munchkin?
Him: Well if you go out, you'll have both of them and be a novelty, but if I have her and you have him..'
Me: 'Divide and conquer approach. Got it.'
So he got covered in paint and checked on munchkin's need to wee every 10 minutes and I handled a teething 4 month old due a feed and a nap.
That was an easy weekend too. At our own church, with my husband a deacon and me the worship coordinator, a Sunday morning is one of my busiest days at the office. We want to bring up our little'uns to know and love God, to have respect for other worshippers and to enjoy their time at church, so we do our best to help them engage with the more structured worship of a Sunday as well as the daily living with Jesus as our model. We want to live our roles within the church to the best of our ability, in tune with God and His will for our church. Both of us have a responsibility to help those around us engage with our Father, see Jesus more clearly, make space for the Spirit to work in His people. These wants and aims are a wonderful privilege. They do, however, leave very little space to engage with God ourselves.
The last time I listened to a speaker and took in all of their message was some time ago. The last time I worshipped without having an eye on the congregation or a child was a fair while ago too - and the last time I actually focused, in a prayerful attitude, on God's message for me or prompts in my life, I can't even remember.
Away from church, we pray with our little'uns every day and we talk about Jesus, about how He taught us to be. I grab snatches of time to ask for help, to say sorry for losing my patience yet again, to be thankful for a beautiful moment. But it's like texting God rather than visiting him. I send out my messages, sometimes I check for a reply and partly take in what it says before getting sidetracked again.
I can't be alone in this. Often, men and women my age, with a young family, are hugely active in their churches. I can't be the only one who is finding that having young children means very little time for nurturing your own relationship with God. Surely others are also wandering the wilderness during this phase of life?
It has been frustrating me of late, this wilderness. I'm having times where I resent the work my role requires, especially when it cuts into, perhaps, time with my husband, which is also on the lean side. He and I have exchanged rueful glances when one of us tentatively asks the other what they got out of a service as we leave the church. I feel guilty that, as I sing most weeks in our worship group, he has to go out to the creche with our munchkin so misses the service. I feel guilty that my youngest gets chucked in a sling on my back and ignored, that my eldest spends an extra hour and a half trying to find ways to entertain herself as we prep for the service. And this guilt is no friend to the servant heart I want to offer my God and my church.
Then, yesterday, after we agreed to divide and conquer, something occurred to me - or maybe I finally heard it...
My family is a blessing from God and for this time, right now, we should be meeting with Him as a family, with all the disruption and mayhem that implies. We can't find the space to do more than that at the moment and maybe that's ok. Maybe texting God right now is fine, maybe he knows that I'll try and visit as often as I can and he'd rather hear from me in a few messages each day than not at all.
My attitude needs to change. I might be in the wilderness, but why does that mean I can't find time to meet with God? Jesus popped off to the desert expressly to find Him!I need to find Him within my life as it is rather than trying to carve a space away from them to focus, because that space isn't there at the moment.
Lent is on the horizon, and that's a time of wilderness; an opportunity to strip back in order to understand more. I think my aim right now is to embrace my wilderness. I want to accept it, to keep on trusting that God will seek me out in it, to keep trying to walk his path, and to keep an eye out for the rare oasises that are sure to be found here and there, if I walk it for long enough.