Our pastor in Virginia told us a few weeks ago, “There is no ‘tired’ like ‘new parent tired.'” Add a sudden cross-country move and a global pandemic on top of that, and the result is a complicated mix of tired, angsty, lonely, and generally just stretched.
I think stretched in particular describes most of what I have felt for the past two months, both in positive and negative ways. As always, the suggestion to “do the next right thing” has proved helpful in the many moments when I can’t figure out what our life needs to look like and how exactly I should function within it. I keep hearing people say that we’re living in unprecedented times. I’m not sure whether I think that’s true or not, but it does seem like I keep finding myself in a position where broad-spectrum guidelines and advice often don’t prove to be helpful and applicable. Of course, Scripture has been the exception to that, which has been therapeutic for my soul to experience.
Any drastic life change has the ability to smooth our rough edges or create new ones . . . or both at once, if we’re being honest. New motherhood has certainly produced this in me. I don’t think I could have foreseen either the depths of the demand or the heights of the joy that comes with a new baby. And what with the implications of COVID-19 on the healthcare system and daily life rhythms, becoming a parent has produced change in me – by necessity – so quickly that I feel a kind of emotional, physical, and spiritual whiplash.
I suppose the greatest areas of change in me have been my level of contentment, my perception of time’s value, and my trust in God to provide strength in moments of great weakness. I generally struggle a lot to be joyful when my preferences and expectations aren’t met, but times of scarcity (of food, spare time, sleep, and so on) produce a lack of options, and we’re left with the choice to either enjoy what we’ve been given or sink into despair and bitterness. It wouldn’t be honest to say that I’ve chosen only one and not the other to any degree, but there has at least been a marked difference in my ability to “choose joy.” As cliché as that adage may be, it is in fact what God calls – and enables – us to do.
Contentment also manifests in how we spend our time. When you can’t have total control over a reliable schedule (as any honest parent will admit) it means that you have to know what your priorities are. Sometimes I will put Iva down to nap and know that she will either wake up crying in five minutes or sleep soundly for the next hour. Now in that moment I become keenly, keenly aware of the weight of even five minutes. I immediately consider what unmet needs are greatest at the time (food? restroom? water? prayer? laundry?) and how efficiently I can get that need met, savoring every passing minute as I go. This might sound dreadful to someone who doesn’t have to live in that headspace . . . but really, as long as we aren’t being driven to sinful anxiety, this is how we should view our time. We aren’t guaranteed or entitled to anything more than this, particularly if we are believers who say that this world isn’t our home and this life isn’t our own. Before Iva I hadn’t realized the true luxury and privilege of a warm cup of coffee, uninterrupted Bible study, a full night of sleep. And I hate that our culture treats this reality as a burden – a sad story that should move us to hoard birth control and indulge ourselves while we can – rather than as a blessing.
But of course you don’t have to be a parent to learn this. Most of us have found ourselves stretched thin in recent weeks and months by circumstances we can’t control. So while we grieve and adjust to the ways in which life looks different than before . . . before a baby, before a nationwide quarantine, before a job loss, before an illness, or whatever it is you’re experiencing . . . may we also choose to rejoice in all the opportunities for growth and gratitude that now present themselves.
Grace and peace,