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on discipline

It doesn't get so very light in the mornings anymore, but there is a change in the atmosphere around 6am when the sun begins to think about getting up and I hear Rascal shuffling out of the way as Dan stands and makes his way towards the shower. Usually by this time I'm in the kids room, having soothed the boys back to sleep any number of times between 11pm and 5am. I blink blink blink in the barely-not-night dim, and the two sides of my brain immediately start fighting.

"You should get up and read the bible."
"No I shouldn't — I should close my eyes and try to go back to sleep."
"No seriously, you need to read the bible. You have a bible commitment."
"For real? What good does it really do anyone in the world for me to read a psalm and a half before the kids start screaming.?"
"You'll feel God's presence and then you won't be such a shitty mother."
"I'm not going to feel God's presence by reading about slaying the wicked in the inky blackness with the bedside lamp burning a migraine into my skull."
"Not with that attitude you're not."
"I'm pregnant and I need more sleep."
"You are a mill of excuses. If you can't get up and read the bible because God gave you a baby then your religious conviction is lame and and hollow."
"If I HAVE to get up and read the bible then my religion is stupid."

And on and on until the kids wake up. Or until I actually get up and make it to my room where the bible is. Whichever comes grudgingly first. Don't get me wrong: I do, often, really really love reading the bible. It's just that thinking about it these days makes me so god awful tired.

Some in the church would say this is a clear sign of spiritual oppression. Not to lay on another heavy, or anything.

The days are exhausting and the nights are punctuated with short shifts of parenting, yet the first dark half-hour of the morning is the only guaranteed quiet time in the day. All parenting experts, both religious and secular, absolutely insist I use this time for myself. I am supposed to center myself and tap into that unseen wellspring of patience that magically makes me a mother who is not an asshole. Or shower and clean the bathroom, if you listen to FlyLady. Either way, I notice that my 6am motivation was a lot higher when I used to get up to run around the block. Now that it's dark, now that my belly weighs me down, now that I've given up running and it's just me versus a few lines of scripture? I'm not quite so enthusiastic. I guess if I'm truthful about it, my innate appreciation of God's word lies somewhere between showering and cleaning the bathroom.

Which is a pretty convicting thought for a person who helps run two bible studies and makes her kids read the bible and goes on a two-day retreat to spend MORE time praying... this person finds the central explicator of our faith kind of "meh."

Oh please can I just say it's the hormones? It's the lack of sleep? It's the rigors of raising little ones that make me tired? Can't I say it's that rather than the real (for lack of a better term) TIRESOMENESS of daily trying to be good good?

The truth is that in those early morning minutes I'm afraid the bible will tell me absolutely nothing. That it will be a complete waste of time. That this waste of time, that this waste of sacrifice, will reveal my faith, my devotion, my whole entire life to be a complete flipping waste.

Or worse. It WILL tell me something, and then I will have to do it. Something like tracking Dan's constantly changing income on spreadsheets that crash every ten minutes just to make sure we're tithing. Something like cooking more dinners for even more people. Something that will take (the phrase that I dread more than anything else in the world right now) EVEN MORE WORK.

So I stay in the lazy middle, sometimes doing no reading, sometimes doing precious little, because mediocrity and haranguing myself are better than the twin fears of toil and meaninglessness.

Which, incidentally is in the bible. Even I can draw that up from memory without opening the thing.

Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.
- King Solomon or whoever it is we believe wrote Ecclesiastes


I woke up at 6am this morning and fought with myself in the usual fashion. My kids slept a few minutes longer than usual, so I had extra time to ponder my inherent sinfulness. Then just before seven, when I felt surely all was lost in the battle for my soul, I picked up the bible and read three psalms. The light was just starting to come through the window, enough that I didn't need to turn on the lamp. Well this isn't killing me, I thought. And then a revelation. Maybe, like Zion and his collared shirt, my fight is not with the thing I think I'm fighting. Maybe I don't hate the bible after all. Maybe I just hate the bedside lamp.

The bible says "our fight is not against flesh and blood" but I am disinclined to believe it. I pretty much think my fight is ALWAYS against flesh and blood, against my own tired, lazy, disobedient body. Certainly the rest of creation is beautiful and inspired and I just can't will myself to walk into it.

Fortunately my free time is limited, and so therefore is my struggle for how to use it. Six to six thirty is so epic to me perhaps because it is so incredibly limited. Once the sun actually rises there are children to feed and chickens to water and a dog to walk. There are beautiful and inspired creatures that demand I run after and then perhaps by serving them I pick up a bit of beauty in their wake.

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