Jesus is no stranger to the human life. He grew in His mother’s womb, entered the world via the messy life-threatening birth canal, and was completely reliant on His inexperienced parents as a helpless infant. He had to learn and grow and eat and sleep. He made friends and He lost friends. He worked with His hands, and used His physical body to walk places, comfort people, and show the world the glory of the Father. Even His death and resurrection was the death and resurrection of a physical human body. As I began to see the most important story I knew, Jesus’ story, as a story of human life, I began to come to terms with the value and importance of my own human life – even the messy, ordinary, repetitive bits. In this season of raising my small children, I began to see my body as a means by which to participate in Christ. No longer is the mundane washing, feeding and cuddling completely inconsequential to my walk with Christ, in fact, it has become the very place in which I can meet with Him. No longer do I feel defeated by the lie that my season of life is incompatible with activities in which I am able to meet with God. I have discovered, in the simple mundane routines of my normal human life, that Jesus is interested in being with me, loves me and might even be teaching me to love the things that he loves.
Jamie Smith wrote a book called, We Are What We Love. In this book, he concludes that human beings are formed more by the repeated habits that we practice, than the knowledge or information we attain. He argues that repeated habits determine what we love, and what we love drives us.
What kind of things do you habitually do day in and day out? What could these habits be orientating your love towards?
I’ll be honest, in this season of my life, I drink a whole lot of coffee. I claim that it’s on account of the aforementioned sleepless nights. But it’s also because I love coffee. And my daily habit of drinking coffee, only makes me love coffee even more! But there are other activities I engage in daily, like the ones I began my previous post with – serving my family by preparing them food five times a day (toddlers are hungry, picky little humans), sacrificing my sleep to attend to my child’s needs in the night, playing peacemaker in the midst of sibling squabbles, asking my kids for forgiveness for my impatience towards them, bending down to their level to wipe their tears and hear their struggles and soaking another bucket-full of poop-stained clothes thanks to my newborn’s blowouts. These are not glamourous habitual activities, that’s for sure. It’s not the common curriculum of most discipleship programs. But, as I’ve studied formation and immersed myself in the life of Jesus, I can confidently say, I am learning to participate with Holy Spirit in the daily habits of my home. And that as I participate in these humble and relentless little actions of service and sacrifice, I am growing to love more like Jesus than I ever have. I am not just being informed about God, or thinking right thoughts about Jesus (those are important too); I am practicing living the committed, pursuing love that He has called me to. I am putting another person’s needs before my own. I am choosing compassion over judgement. I am learning to view the world from another person’s perspective. I am asking for forgiveness and forgiving. I am growing in patience (ever so slowly) as I adjust to the pace of a toddler, endure a pregnancy, or teach a child to use the bathroom. I am participating in Christ in all these small ways. And the wonderful thing about the context of parenthood is that these practices aren’t a one-time thing. I embody these actions daily, weekly, and for years on end. Because of that, they have the potential to form and shape me profoundly. This ordinary life I live each day has the potential to mould my character to be more like Jesus, as I recognise Him walking with me.
John 15:4 says “Abide in me and you will bear much fruit”.
As I learn to abide in Jesus, to engage Him in the ordinariness of my day-to-day and in the simple actions of my body, the fruits of gentleness, patience, kindness and self-control grow in me, and in my home, eventually spilling out into my community. This season of parenting little ones, demanding as it is, is not destined to be a step further from God’s presence. In fact, it might just be the path to seek His face.
Are you a weary parent longing to encounter Jesus in the midst of this full season of your life? Don’t buy into the lie that in order to encounter Jesus you need to be someplace other than right where you are today. Think of ways that you can recognise His presence with you in whatever physical tasks you might be ahead today – washing dishes, tucking a child into bed…etc.? How does this simple action connect you to the life of Christ? What fruits of the Spirit might be developing in your life through these physical actions? If you are not in this particular season of your life, what are some of those repetitive ordinary tasks you do every day? How could you develop an awareness of Christ are you complete these tasks?
Perhaps there are some kids in your life you could spend some time with. Practice being present to Holy Spirit as you are physically present to this child. The ordinary physical realities we face are part of our life with God, as Jesus so beautifully modeled for us. Jesus instructs us to remember him through our bodies; in the tangible practice of eating bread and drinking wine. In doing so we connect our thinking to our bodies. Jesus instructs us to baptise people as a sign of their new life in him. The physical action of immersing a person in water and bringing them out again connects our thinking to our bodies. In Israel’s wilderness wandering years, God showed people His faithfulness by being the provider of their daily food and water. God has always been connecting our thinking and knowing of Him to the actions of our bodies.
In the slow and simple tasks of our every day, we make real the big works of loving God and loving people. As Tish Warren-Harrison writes,
“In the Scriptures, we find that the body is not incidental to our faith, but integral to our worship”.
Whether a parent, a labourer, a teacher or a business owner, our faith is lived out not just in Sunday services or early morning quiet times, but in the messy, imperfect, people-filled, house-cleaning, conﬂict-navigating hours of our daily lives. Often we view these necessities as a hindrance to our ‘more important tasks’ with God, when in fact it is right here we learn to love the things that the Father loves and begin to look a little more like Him.
To explore this topic more, check out Michaela’s devotional e-book, A Parent’s Invitation to Spiritual Re-formation: How the Practices of Parenting Become Disciplines Leading Us Back to the Ways of Jesus