Sunday, in the midst of rocking and bouncing my little babes in the back of the balcony throughout our church service, my brain completely missed the sermon. (I cannot recall anything I can’t take notes on.) In these early days of baby-loving, I usually don’t have a lot of spiritual learning taking place, at least intellectually. But yesterday, in the midst of trying to plug T-Rexy’s cries with a pacificer, I somehow heard and connected to something my pastor said (and has probably said a million times before). Perhaps he was praying or about to pray. Maybe it was just before a time of reflection. But he said something to the effect of: “God wants to heal us of our small ambitions.”
Our small ambitions. You know those moments when God connects something by thread to your soul, makes a new stitch in there so it won’t leave? I felt that way with those words. I’m feeling needy, weak, and anxious about my abilities to raise two children. I feel like I’m failing daily with August in a way I never felt one month ago, before Brooks was born. Suddenly, my weaknesses as a mother are large and apparent. My 2-year-old is feeling unsettled in our family, longing for life the way it used to be, screaming and tantruming over things he used to do obediently when we asked them of him: pee in the potty, get in the bathtub, put your toys away.
Saturday night Chris and I were both overcome with our sense of failing August, our selfish reactions, our lack of patience, and our lack of wisdom. (We both lean toward discipline when maybe our response should be nurture.) Yes, having a newborn in the house changes everything for all of us. When family changes we see ourselves in a new way. My weaknesses are glaring.
When Fred mentioned our small ambitions, I was immediately taken to my mantra of the past three weeks: Survive. Just make it through this day. Just get your kids fed and clothed and snuggled. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with survival when your life is adjusting to something as significant as a new child. But, it’s not enough. It’s too small. Christ longs to give my family and me more than survival. Christ longs for my boys to be more than nice kids. If I grasp on to his vision for August and Brooks, I will find his longing for their depth, their authenticity, their compassion, their sense of justice and mercy. The building up of those qualities in them is much bigger and deeper than the moment to moment harriedness of daily survival.
The first time I was pregnant, I felt a profound connection with Communion each Sunday. It was as if I had a secret purpose when I was given the bread and the wine, that as I consumed them I was sending Christ to my son. Then, after August was born, I would pray for him before I took Communion, asking Christ to pass himself along to August in some beautiful way through my milk. I think about that now with Brooks. I pray the same things.
Yesterday, my husband was holding him as we tilted back our little plastic Presbyterian cups of wine. However Chris was holding the baby, he somehow couldn’t get the whole sip of wine swallowed. There remained a fourth of the cup left. He turned to me. “Will you finish this?” he asked. And I took it.
Communion is a worship experience. It’s personal but it’s communal. We take the wine and bread into our individual selves, but we do it together.
It occurred to me that I’ve shared the wine and the bread with both of my boys in beautiful, precious ways, but I’ve never “shared” it with Chris. He and I had whispered in the dark Saturday night about parenthood, our fears, each other’s tendencies and weaknesses. We’d prayed together for our boys. And now I was helping him finish the wine he couldn’t consume because our son needed him. Whatever it means to recognize God’s bigger ambitions for our lives as a family, I can’t help but think it starts with this: we feed each other Jesus. We consume what the other (or others) can’t then consume.
And we believe the secret: that daily, in the midst of the mundane, God’s purpose and ambition for our family is deeper and thicker than we can yet grasp.