This morning I was reading Soul Graffiti by Mark Scandrette. The chapter was about community and focused on communities on pilgrimages and in monastic life. I always struggle with my big dreaming when learning new spiritual concepts. This was no exception. I immediately began to dream of traveling with friends, visiting ancient holy sites, writing in cafés and spending hours with people on the street sharing Jesus with them. Or I pictured me and a close group of friends taking vows of silence and emerging from weeks of stillness with brilliant insights and new knowledge of the Holy.
Then Jonathan padded out in his Batman slippers to the couch where I sat, Hannah close behind dragging her blanket, and I can hear Joshua stirring in the other room; no doubt preparing something fun for me to clean up in his diaper. Bubble popped. Traveling with children is not really very romantic, and I barely have time to greet people that I know on the street when my kids are with me, much less begin a new friendship and share the Good News. And, while I sometimes wish that my children would take a vow of silence, that certainly won’t be the story of my life anytime soon.
I think often as a mother, I haven’t grasped the deep significance of my role. Growing up the oldest of 5, an older cousin, a responsible teenager, I was frequently called upon to babysit. From my own siblings to other kids in the church, I seemed to constantly be responsible for little people. While I always enjoyed the extra income, babysitting was always just a chore, something to survive through, and I fear that often this mentality is all that I seem for myself as a mother. This is just a child-care job that I have to endure until its over and my “real life” can resume. Sadly, it’s taken the birth of my third child to realize that this IS my real life, and I’ve been viewing it as an obligation rather than a privilege.
But these sweet little ones are my community right now. Before I can begin imagining what life would be like with other adults, God has given me community to learn and practice the skills needed to function as a spiritual unit with the people around me, no matter how small. This radically alters the way that I’ve been viewing my family.
Ouch! Major repentance for my sucky attitude is needed! Not only that, but I’ve been taking my marriage for granted. I have deep faith in the strength of our vows (which is great), but I’m not always treating my husband as a fellow pilgrim or brother in this life journey. There is so much that I have to change in my heart and my attitude towards my family.
Growing up, there was always a “look good” expectation for when we were in public. And honestly, our family wasn’t really terrible, but we definitely were performance driven. I think that this has sadly carried over into my adult life. I’m more concerned about how my family “looks” to other people than actually investing in each individual and making sure that we are all in sync with each other. How can I expect God to use me in building the greater community of His church when I’m not cultivating relationships in the little community of my family? As my focus has been slowly shifted towards the true role that I hold in as Anthony’s wife and the mother of the Indie children, I’m sobered by how significant my part is, and grieved by how little I have valued this job up until now.
So while I will still dream of traveling around Europe with a group of friends someday, today I will focus on traveling around Paso Robles with my budding tribe of tiny pilgrims. We may only get as far as the library and the park, but I’m praying that God leads me in understanding how to minister to the needs of the people He has entrusted to my care for this time. This is their first experience with community, their first chance to see what God can do with a little group of people dedicated to Him.