Last Monday was the most Monday of all Mondays.
At 9am, things were sort of quiet around the house and I thought to myself, Perfect! I have a chance to read today’s “She Reads Truth” devotional. I was halfway through the psalm of the day when Ben walked into the room, “I pooped my pants.”
You guys, not only had he pooped his pants, but he had removed the overnight diaper and his poop was caught in his pajamas in a ball resting behind his knee.
I sighed, reminded myself that this is life, to not get too upset by it, and carefully brought the stinky, poop smeared boy up to the tub for a bath.
Shortly after the child was cleaned up, the dog vomited her breakfast and the contents of Jack’s birdfeeder onto the living room carpet.
The day continued:
10:15am, boys need a snack
10:41 Ben poops his pants again
11:23 Gracie throws up more bird seed in the mudroom
11:30 try to make lunch while feeling slightly nauseous from all of the poop and vomit
12:26 discover puked bird seed in Gracie’s kennel
1:48 Ben poops his pants a third time
2:15 the boys need another snack
2:35 Ben finally naps
3:00 hold my breath while throwing soiled towels, clothing, and bedding into the wash
4:00 run out the door for Jack’s swim lesson
5:30 breathless arrive home in order to turn around and drive through rush-hour traffic for dinner with friends
9:00 home, scramble to put kids in bed, landed on the couch, spent, done, finished
Zero space in the day for me. Zero space for reflection. Zero space for refreshment and life.
Over the past three or four years, I have learned one important thing: I need space in my life. Space to breath. Space to sleep. Space to read and pray and write. I need space for quiet. I need space alone. I need space to remember that God gave himself for me so that I could use my gifts to serve others.
I need space to be me.
But no one is going to give me space. And, I admit, I often don’t take it.
Why? Because somewhere in my life I began to believe that taking space for myself is selfish. We are, after all, supposed to ” value others above [ourselves], not looking to [our] own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3-4) We are supposed to live as selflessly as Jesus did when He gave himself up to be sacrificed on the cross (Phil 2:5). In my mind, that has meant everyone deserves a “yes.” It means my children’s needs come before my own. It means my husband’s wishes must be granted. It means I come last.
But Jesus also ran away from people. At times it seems he supernaturally wound up on the other side of lakes in order to get away from the crowds that clamored around him, demanding food, healings, and love – much as my children circle around my knees. Jesus’ love was so great for the people, that when He had no energy left to give them, He went away and prayed alone for strength to continue. He also slept when He needed to – even when the boat he traveled in took on water in a storm.
No doubt people were frustrated with Him for taking care of his own physical needs. The Pharisees hated him for picking grain to eat on the Sabbath. The disciples were bewildered that he would ask a Samaritan woman for water.
But everything he did, the naps, the times alone on the mountain, the times alone in prayer, all of these things he did because His Father told Him to.
God asks us to do this, too. Jesus invites us to rest in Him (Mt 11:28). More than that, God gave us the Sabbath: one day out of every week to rest in Him. Nearly 15% of our time is to be spent in wide open spaces of rest and rejuvenation.
But will we take it? Will we receive the space God has for us in our lives?
We often don’t, because the truth is, taking space comes at a cost.
To take a day “off” means the dishes will pile up, the laundry will go untouched, the house will be a mess.
To take time away from my family to be alone or have soul-filling time with my girl friends means my children might cry when I leave.
To say “no” means that at times people will be disappointed in me and may judge me.
To wake up before my kids get up so that I can spend five minutes in prayer and reflection over coffee and my Bible means that I won’t get to sleep in Saturday mornings.
To hide away in our basement bedroom means that my family might not think I’m fun or interesting.
Self-care, creating space, comes at a cost. So I don’t do it. I complain I don’t have time, but the truth is, no one is going to give me the space I need. I have to create it. I have to take it. Even if there is a cost.
Without space, I will only be thinking of myself, unable to consider others’ true needs. Without it, I will begin to think that I am God, I am the one others depend on, I alone have the ability to make or break their lives.
But with space, God reminds me who He is and who I am. With it, I am filled with the love of God which can pour onto others. With it, the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience fill my life. Fill my soul.
With space, I can discern His voice, hear His calling, follow Him as He reminds me:
How do you create space in your life? I’m still an amateur – a practicer of this discipline. My practices include waking before the boys get up, letting them watch a movie so I can eat in peace, reading novels and blogs, and writing. What do you like to do?