“I used to be really good at reading my Bible but then I became a mom.”
“One day I’ll be able to think deeply again.”
“I just need sleep first.”
“I am barely surviving on podcasts right now. I can’t even imagine sitting to read my Bible.”
These are words that I (and many other parents) have uttered, often in despair or jest. Motherhood, with all of its glorious gifts, has a peculiar ability to turn pre-parental life habits into no longer available aspirations. Overnight you become life giver, caretaker, and soul sustainer to this tiny child that did not come with an instruction manual. Previous routines and rhythms go out the window with no hint of coming back.
When I first became a mom, I could barely figure out how to eat or sleep. Things like showering or reading my Bible felt like luxuries. American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, even has a hierarchy of needs that echoes these sentiments. He proposes that unless your basic needs in life are met (water, food, shelter), you cannot have your psychological or self-fulfillment needs met. As Christians, we cannot afford to place Bible reading and communion with God as a secondary need: It is the nutrition and sustenance for spiritual health. And yet we have multitudes of women trying to press pause on walking with God until they get their kids and their lives under control. This is a deadly habit for Christians. We don’t stand still in holiness until we can resume godly activity. Abiding deeply with Jesus must happen in the chaos of motherhood and the demands of the day. Jesus calls us to follow him in every season of life (John 15:4-7).
Now before you begin to despair, take heart. Salvation and sanctification happen through great weakness and need on our part! Remember that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Abounding in God looks like laying prostrate on the rock of ages more often than it does standing tall with arms lifted in victory. So how do we begin? So what does it look like to engage with God when our kids are young and underfoot?
1. We must recognize that our children are not a hindrance to walking with Jesus.
As moms, we need to live for God with and not in spite of our children. If we think the only way to commune with God is in silence with pleasurable surroundings, then we will view the silence intruders (our children) as an obstacle to walking with God, and that is the exact opposite of Jesus’ message. Not only did he overly welcome the little children any time they were around, he met with sinners in the midst of life. Yes, he took time away to hilltop teachings and isolated prayer and solitude, and we should create space for that too. But the majority of his ministry happened while intersecting with ordinary life, and we need our walks with Jesus to intersect our lives too.
Jesus did not wait for perfect, pristine, holy seeming moments to commune with his people when he was on earth. His entrance on to earth was in a messy, smelly, dirty, noisy manger with insufficient accommodations (sounds like most of my mornings) and his entrance in to our daily lives can be the same. The holy redeemed the mundane.
2. Daily effort is required.
Discipline, boundaries, and intentional effort are required in order to walk with God with little children around. When I was a young mom with one kid and now that I have just had my fourth child, I have stumbled (quite literally) time and again into the same truth. You will not magically carve out time for scripture reading if all you do is give in to the impulses and demands of your day. If a child’s whines, naps and coos instantly became what your life responds to then they will be what defines your life. It is a fight to put Christ first in the midst of motherhood, but let’s remind ourselves that our children need a mom who knows and abides in God more than they need one who immediately grants all their wishes.
One idea is to learn to read the word with your children around and start when they are young. A year into motherhood with my first child, I was physically weary and spiritually dry. I had tried unsuccessfully to rise early and read my Bible and failed time and again. It was hard to join Bible study groups with time commitments while I nursed a baby. Finally, out of desperation more than anything, I decided I had to read the Bible when my daughter was around.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, it wasn’t any easy habit to develop but one that has reaped infinite rewards. It took about three weeks of daily practice and redirection for my daughter to learn that while mommy sits and reads her Bible she could play very quietly around me. At first, it lasted a glorious fifteen minutes. Now that we’re years in, on a good day I can get 30 to 45 minutes while the kids play in their room or quietly around while I read my Bible. And as my kids have grown, in each new season of life, we re-learn the same habits.
It has become a daily family choice to choose God first. It’s a choosing to say, “wait” and letting Christ be first. Now, my prayer is that as my children watch their mother pour over the scriptures they are also actively learning that their demands do not trump God’s glory. And it is worth the effort.
3. You need the church around you.
We live in a culture where it’s easy to have our only window into godliness be from what happens on a public platform. Public platforms are great for exhorting, preaching, teaching, encouraging, and remembering, but they are not where the actual living happens. Walking with God happens in little moments of everyday life, as you are going through your days with people you know. Motherhood is a great catalyst to live life with people in the church as lifelines.
The church came to my house the first couple weeks of motherhood and helped me go to the store for the first time. The church would come have play dates in my house and cry, pray, and laugh with me during this season. The church started scripture discipleship groups to hold me accountable to reading the Word. You are one part of the body and you need the rest of the body surrounding you! Praise God for the church. It’s not an optional part of God’s plan. We need the body to thrive.
This morning, as I stumbled downstairs to coffee, my seven-year-old daughter was waiting for me on the couch with her Bible. “Mom, I waited for you to read this Psalm with me,” she said like it was no big deal. Because it wasn’t. She has seen a mother sit and cry and daily surrender and repent for years and now it’s normal. She knows mommy needs Jesus because she watches me commune. She is a child who has seen by sight that her mother is not all sustaining. Mommy is sinful and needy. She has watched me cry and recount stories to her about the amazing God of the universe who is better than life. Most of these while she was playing with dolls, or throwing tantrums next to me, but she watched all the same. She has experienced the holy meeting the mundane for the past seven years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
So dear friends, for those of you who are parents, let me encourage you to towards the same discipline. Do not forsake spending time with God’s word during this chaotic season. It will not only strengthen your relationship with the Lord, but it will be a model for your children as well.