It was one of my first ventures out into society as a new mama. We were visiting the home of some new friends and it was just a few minutes after we walked in the door (you know, tumbling about trying to carry the diaper bag and car seat and purse and trailing spare blanket and, of course, the baby). He started crying a little bit. Then, it got louder, and I excused myself to the other room as I attempted to quiet him.
“What’s wrong, Jonathan?” I whispered, as if a two-month-old could provide a justifiable answer. I tried bouncing him. I tried singing lullabies. I tried feeding him and changing his diaper. Still he continued to wail.
All my visions of motherhood, the dreams I held dear even as I had cradled baby dolls in skinny five-year-old arms, were crashing down hard as I tasted my own failure to soothe this real-life baby. And what were those ladies in the other room thinking of me? Being new to the area, I barely knew these people. Well, this was a fine first impression. They probably think something is wrong with me! That I’m so inept! That I don’t know what I’m doing! My own eyes became wet with tears at the thought.
Fast forward a few weeks. I’m listening to scripture on audio as I fold laundry. Listening is often interrupted by my little newborn, but one short phrase rings out strong over the busyness of the house and the anxiousness of my heart. It’s the second part of Colossians 3:11, which says, “But Christ is all, and in all.”
I match a pair of teeny blue socks and my soul is quieted as I consider Christ. He’s the one who came to earth as a crying baby himself, to enter into our plight and make the way to bring us Home to Heaven, where he will wipe every tear from our eyes. He’s the one who shows us the invisible God, who brings us reconciliation, who makes peace for us by his own blood on the cross, forgiving all our sin and covering us with his own supreme righteousness.
I finger the corner of the towel and fold. This rescuing, merciful, peace-making God “is all,” that is, he is everything, everywhere, for every moment. He provides the meaning and purpose and beauty—not just for some days or some people—but for all and for everything, even this moment as I fold my laundry, even that moment when my child is crying and crying, even when I am crying myself. Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end of my story and your story and everyone else’s story.
I smile at the wave of Dreft reaching my nose, and I think about Jesus joining me here. He not only looks on us and intervenes, but he is actually “in” us. Inside—like sitting on the living room couch of your heart. He fills not only our environment and experiences, but our entire range of emotion, reaching the deepest parts of us, filling every corner and crevice with his “hope of glory.” And you can trust that he’s not only doing this in you, but in those around you, in a corporate sense, turning your brothers and sisters into walking temples of his presence, building us all up together into one giant House of Hope.
This sure changes things.
We live in a world where relationships tend to be defined by divisions and distinctions. This is the reality of my heart—that I look on others and instinctively measure myself as either inadequate or superior in comparison. Never have I struggled with this more than in my first few months of motherhood. She seems so natural as a mom—and I look like such a clutz. Or, even more humbling to admit, thoughts like this sneak in: Hasn’t she read that book about baby sleep? I’m pretty sure it would work for her if she would give it a try like I did…
This is an exhausting way to live. It keeps my heart in a constant limbo of emotional security and insecurity, one moment at peace with my constructed identity (Really, compared to her, I’m doing very well!) but the next, shaken to the core and feeling fragile. (I look like such an idiot next to her.) And what a lonely life! Rather than simply reaching out, we must reach up or reach down, which creates a certain distance between us and other people. In such a position, we cannot experience genuine love, the rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. Instead, we are plagued by evil desires and greed and anger and slander and lying. It’s an ugly picture, isn’t it? It is not what God intends.
Praise be to him, we are rescued! For here, in Christ, “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free” (Colossians 3:10). I haven’t studied the meaning of all those ancient roles and distinctions, but I’m pretty sure I would be one of the barbarians—if that means sweaty and smelling like spit-up and tear stained. (Fellow barbarians, please raise your hands!) But you know what? There is something bigger than all our differences, bigger than all the measurements and status. Christ is bigger. He is all.
Now, we see Jesus everywhere! When we look at ourselves and at others, we look for Christ, in and through all our differences. We are no longer worrying what others think of us or racing to prove ourselves, to peg ourselves as inferior or superior to another mama. Rather, we clothe ourselves, head to toe, in humility. We are on a treasure hunt of sorts, looking for Christ, searching to delight in his glory in those around us and His grace in our own weaknesses. It’s a new life of love and song and unity and giving thanks. We’re living out this identity as a people holy and dearly loved, finding a new confidence, freed to bear with each other and forgive each other and live in peace as one body.
Isn’t it beautiful? Wouldn’t you rather live here?
So it’s a new day. I’m walking into the Ladies’ Bible study and if I look exhausted, it’s because I am. My poor baby boy was up all night. As I beeline it to the coffee table, I have a quick decision to make—how will I answer the “How are you?” questions from my fellow Bible study ladies? I could say something like, “Oh, we’re doing great! Did you notice the sun is shining outside? Isn’t Jonathan’s outfit cute? Isn’t this coffee AMAZING?” But I know my heart, and for this moment, such an answer will be living out the lie that our differences and status actually do matter and I will be refusing to be one with the body of Christ. I will be living as if Christ himself is not enough.
So instead, I can be honest and say, “You know, I’m tired.” I can ask for a listening ear. I can humbly seek advice. I can beg for prayer, for becoming more like Christ in the middle of the night, and I can add, “How can I pray for you?” Because Christ is all and is in all, I can live in sweet peace and experience genuine love.
So whisper, Christ, Christ, Christ! Shout, Jesus is everything! Pray with Saint Patrick, “Christ with me, Christ before me!”
Then, sit back and watch him work his glory. And enjoy.