SO, the other night was one of those painful, exhausting, hair pulling
“oh good grief, when will you both sleep? PLEASE just drop off for longer than 20mins!!!!”
kind of nights. The sort that leaves you uncertain as to whether you are awake, dead or in some kind of bad zombie movie- something that pretty much every parent of small children has faced at least once, and has probably blocked out. One of those nights that makes you realise that you are no longer allowed to be wholly selfish because your small people/person gets first dibs on that behaviour. You are a parent.
One of the things which has been a big success on our parenting journey so far, is the night-time routine, which we have had in place since the earliest possible opportunity with our daughter. Most nights, with only a few exceptions, dinner is at around 5pm, bath time between 5:30-6pm and then one story, prayers and in bed by 6:30pm.
This really works for us and apart from when something is wrong, our 21 month old daughter will play happily in her cot and drop off to sleep, remaining that way until anytime between 6:30-8am the next morning. Our son is now more than ready to sleep after bath time, and lately he’s been out for the count by 6pm.
However on the night in question, both of our children had streaming colds and were teething, and this was a night when the boy decided that he needed a lot more in the way of food and cuddles.
Despite going down well as usual, from roughly 9pm our son woke every hour, until around half past midnight when he came into our bed after refusing to be out down without screaming. He then proceeded to sleep for less than half an hour at a time without screaming, and pretty much spent the rest of the night attached to me. Not great for my husband’s sleep either.
Our daughter then woke at 1:30am and when my husband went in to settle her, was inconsolable. He spent most of the rest of the night cuddling her in the spare bed, where she wouldn’t sleep and therefore neither could he.
At 5am, feeling rather emotional and alone, I asked him to come back to our room, with the girl if necessary, for some moral support. However both children decided that it was play time, and sweetly (though neither of us felt so at the time) made each other laugh for about 40 minutes, before we gave up and split rooms again. We managed to sleep for roughly an hour and a half before it was time to get up.
As you can imagine we were exhausted.
My lovely husband had a full work day ahead, and I was at home all day with two small, tired, ill and grumpy children to look forward to.
It should have been a write-off.
However, such is the generosity and grace of God that my husband coped admirably with his day, finding time to add a couple of extra pastoral meetings into his schedule, wherein God clearly had some specific purposes to fulfil.
He also had the wisdom to cancel his evening work commitment, as there would have been no way he could have done it any kind of justice, and given that he finds it very hard to let these things go, he showed real restraint.
I on the other hand, had a lovely chilled out day with my little people, full of these wonderful, bliss-filled moments. It was really quite remarkable.
Due entirely to God’s grace, I managed to cope with my frustration that the washing up was piled high on the side, the house was generally in a tip and every piece of puzzle we owned was on the the floor.
Don’t misunderstand me, I may be house proud (in that I enjoy creating a beautiful, comfortable and welcoming home), but our house is almost ALWAYS a mess – it’s just that I have a tipping point when I need it tackled, as I start to feel claustrophobic and itchy, and we were already at it.
But it was in the afternoon at the park (I felt we needed to get out of the house) where a fresh realisation of God’s grace dawned on me.
I had recognised that I would need his help, big time, to cope with this day even before we got up to begin breakfast, but I don’t think that I have simply rested in him quite so willingly before. Nor have I so successfully resisted attempting to cope with any of it in my own strength. I am certain that if I had, the day would have turned out very differently, with my husband returning home to one big ball of frazzled crazy.
Instead my daughter played, giggled and climbed up the slide (no, she is not conventional and I love it). I held the boy, who snuggled lovingly into me, and I was able to enjoy these precious moments of their innocence and curiosity.
I delighted in them. I felt peaceful – rather than counting the minutes until I could get them into bed- actually relishing their company.
YES I was knackered, and I couldn’t have expounded on any deeply complicated subject without losing my thread, but I wasn’t stressed out by it. I gave myself permission to not try. It worked.
But surely this is the nature of grace. That we are continually and permenantly blessed and rewarded more than we could ever deserve, work for or manage to create for ourselves.
Simply by saying:
“Jesus, I am sinful, you are not. I am sorry. Yes please, I will definitely take up your offer of a swap for the consequences of our actions- you must really love me by the way, because that is not a fair exchange by any leap of the imagination!
Rest in the fact that you love me and can provide me with EVERYTHING I need?
Trust that you will never hold ANYTHING bad I do against me?
Believe you when you say that you don’t condemn me and I will effectively get your glowing report rather than my own at the end of my life?
Oh and you will throw in: ‘changing me more fully into the person I was created to be; turning every painful and difficult circumstance round for my good and your glory; and giving me more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control,’ into the bargain? Hand me a pen and show me where to sign!”
we no longer have to TRY- Instead letting God shift things for us from the inside out. That’s when it really flows.
The fight for us christians is not really about avoiding temptation or the worldly approaches to life, but the fight to rest.
A fight to not fight for ourselves, but instead allow Him to defend us and see us vindicated, justified and valued.
It is taking him at his word when he says that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39), and to truly believe that his grace IS enough.
We are actually better off not trying to correct or change anything in ourselves – because then it is on us to maintain permanently – but to ask God to change it in us whilst we get on with receiving his love and provision.
This is grace. It doesn’t sound FAIR because it isn’t.
But it is good. And if God, who sees and knows and understands all things is ok with the exchange, then who am I to disagree with Him.
I learned a valuable lesson that day – one that I have no doubt I shall bungle again in the not too distant future. That by resting in Him, I can receive all the love I need and allow it to spill out uncontrollably on my family, causing us even more joy.