This morning I read about Nadia Bolz-Weber’s story about being stretched to fit a mold of herself she didn’t recognize. A story of how God challenged her to be something she didn’t think she was, in order for Him to use her to reach a people who needed God’s grace–akin to a story many of us know of Jonah going to Nineveh, but not before a struggle. For Nadia, Nineveh was speaking at a youth conference, when she saw her audience as sarcastic and skeptical adults.
This morning I read her words about an offensively ordinary God, who uses “offensively ordinary things,” to reveal Himself to us. Yes, Nadia and I agree “that this God has never made sense.” But even more, I love how she reminds me what this means for me too:
“And you don’t need to either, because this God will use you, this God will use all of you, and not just your strengths, but you failure and your failings. Your weakness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful, so don’t think all you have to offer are gifts” (Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, pg 38)
This leads me to ask myself (and God), “Why aren’t you stretching me like this God?” because, if I’m honest I feel a little bored with my life. My stay-at-home mom existence certainly doesn’t look like Nadia’s challenge of speaking to thousands of difficult teenagers. For a minute, I stubbornly challenge God, “You aren’t stretching and challenging me to do great things God.” Then my mind returns to my own life challenges–I notice the sag of my tired body, kept up all night by a nursing toddler gymnast. I release a guttural noise, a confused half-breed of a cry and a laugh. In this ripe place of pain and uncertainty, of fatigue and resignation, God challenges me to be present in the places I don’t want to be either. In such a time as this, God is stretching me, my ego, my assumptions, and my patience.
My older daughter, Bree, really wants to share a room with Elyse. She doesn’t think its fair that the three of us, and the dog, pile into our queen sized bed, while she sleeps alone in her room. Every night we pray together, “God please help Elyse to wean and start sleeping through the night so she can share a room with Bree.”
I believe that there is power in prayer. I believe that prayer unlocks a Heavenly shift in our earthly reality. But this doesn’t mean it shifts in the way that we envision. God is moving in my present circumstances of nursing all night, and bed-sharing. He’s moving somehow in and through my sleep deprived body and is present in my addled thoughts and resentful reality. I had to chuckle when one morning Bree shared her dream with me. She dreamt God was raining down milk on the Israelites. They were drinking the milk until they turned into ghosts. I wish I had a Joseph to make earthly sense of what this dream could mean.
“Maybe Elyse will just nurse for her entire life?” Bree asked, smiling brightly.
“Lord help us!” I said with thick sarcasm and exasperation.
“Amen,” she responded with passion and enthusiasm.
I don’t have any qualms about a mom that wants to nurse her 28-month-old toddler through the night. Power to you sister. But I was never going to be “that mom.” No, for me, my cute baby would be healthy and ordinary (tongue in cheek). My cute baby would wean at the appropriate time–and sleep through the night too. I believe every mother should choose the path of motherhood, feeding, sleeping, nurturing, that works best for the whole family. I believe that in a theoretical way, like, “you do whatever works for you.” But for me, I’d rather not challenge the mothering norms. Yes, in my mind, nursing my 28-month-old and co-sleeping, challenges my own assumptions of what my mothering journey should look like. As my reality scrapes against my ideals, I see God using “offensively ordinary” things to challenge who I think I am.
In the past I’ve seen the things that others see as “shameful,” as opportunities to connect and stand in the light. This morning as I wrestle with my messy and imperfect reality, I want to hide it. I want to pretend my mothering journey is all the things beautiful and “normal” that fit squarely into a photo on Instagram. But then I feel God nudging me, whispering to me that this is where he wants me to stand in His light.
So here I stand. I stand here in this area that feels grey. I feel the thick seeping darkness beckoning me, to hide in the shadows. I’ve started thinking how I can hide from my friends the fact that I’m still nursing, because I feel embarrassed at this point. I feel like I’ve failed to help my daughter reach the next milestone. But for some reason, like Nadia, God is challenging me to stand in the bright lights, on an unfamiliar stage, to use my shame and weakness to usher in His love and grace. I really want my challenge to look much more glamorous, like speaking in front of thousands of sarcastic teens. But my audience is through this little blog, lit up on computers of stay-at-home moms, working moms, grandmas, dads, and grandpas, old friends, and new ones I haven’t met yet. My prayer is in this messy reality God stirs the contradictions and doubts in your mind. That God can use your “offensively ordinary” circumstances to move mountains that you don’t even know are there.