Thursday, January 20, 2011

i would love to, if not for the baby

warning: this is going to be one of those posts for which you need to hang with me for a while. ready?

it's funny, isn't it, that i changed the motif of this blog to the wine glass thing--"some of the words i might share with you over a glass of wine"--while i was pregnant. if you know me, you know that i'm pretty careful not to drink alcohol while i'm pregnant. which says nothing about those who choose to--more power to you--i'm just a legalist like that. (and oh, how i'd savor a glass of wine right about now...but i digress.)

the fact is that from day one, being a mom changes your life. completely. but back to that in a minute.

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in our church staff meeting yesterday (in case you don't keep up with my comings and goings unless they're mentioned here, i have been the children's minister at our church for about seven months now and recently left my second part-time job as the marketing editor at the local community college), we were talking about discipleship. what is it? how do we do it? what does it look like for the people in our church?

if you're a churchgoer, you've probably heard the term used. but can you define it? our church recently hosted a discipleship weekend, and when someone asked me what that was, i found myself at a loss. i can tell you about Jesus' disciples, that is, his followers. but what is discipleship for us, then, practically speaking? because to say we're being like the original disciples--following Jesus--is all well and good. but what does that mean we're actually doing?

merriam-webster online defines a disciple as "one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another." that's helpful, i guess. but more practically speaking, what does that look like? at a friend's ordination service last week, the presiding bishop described the new priest's role as looking like a sheep from the front and a shepherd from behind, both following Jesus and leading others to Him at once. there's something to that, too. but what both of those definitions miss is the overwhelming commitment of discipleship. when Jesus describes to His disciples what it means to follow Him, there's no question that it's a radical commitment. to paraphrase, take up your cross and follow me (luke 9:23), let the dead bury the dead (luke 9:60) sell all you have (mark 10:21), if anyone does not hate his family, he cannot be my disciple (luke 14:26) etcetera--this is not an easy or half-hearted calling in the least. it's no small deal to become a disciple. so as i've thought about what it means to be a modern disciple in the context of our church staff's discussion, i've had all those pieces of the puzzle in mind.

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and this is where the mom thing comes in. i know that if you've ever been a mom--and perhaps even if you've ever been married to one or even just had a mom of your own--you've guessed the connection by now. there is no other role in life that i can think to compare discipleship to in terms of the degree of commitment (and nothing sacrilegious or child-worshipy beyond that, please note) than that of being a mom. from the moment your child is conceived, your entire life revolves around that child--and it will, in many ways, forever. from making you forgo that first glass of wine to changing what you like to eat, what smells you enjoy, how you sleep, what you think about (and how clearly you are able to think), that child takes over your life immediately, even before you get to meet him or her. and then once s/he arrives? your entire life is dominated by that child's needs. all day long, and all night long. from feedings and diapers to carpools and rehearsals to relationships and decisions to long-distance phone calls and friendship, you will not sleep or wake without your child in mind ever again. even if you lose that child, the round-the-clock awareness of being his or her mother will never change.

(this is different for dads, i suspect. i don't know, i guess, and i also don't know whether i'm overstepping to apply it to all moms, either. but i suppose that since this is my blog, if i'm ever going to overstep anywhere, this is the place to do it.)

anyhow, the point is that being a mom doesn't just consume your life, and not for a little while. it becomes your life. and although there may be fleeting moments when you think you'd like to escape it, the reality is that you cannot imagine ever going back to your life before your child. and really, you don't want to.

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in my head, which is always searching for the right metaphor with which to understand and explain something, that model of absorption by a relationship--of utter abandonment to a person without any limitations whatsoever--can be the only metaphor sufficient to describe what discipleship ought to look like. there's no looking back, no questioning whether it's right, no doubt that you would without hesitation do absolutely anything for this person. and everything you do is with this person in mind, always.

as a mom, i know that to be a tall order. and perhaps, as a metaphor with all its concomitant limitations, it's not all that helpful in a practical way after all to address the question our church staff was asking: how do we do it? at least it's not practical in a programming sense--what events will we schedule, or to what will we invite people? but if we want to talk about what discipleship really ought to look like, i think it's helpful at least as an image. and maybe it is the thing to which we ought to be inviting people: total, radical, and joyful abandonment, with no strings attached.

1 comment:

Gabrielle said...

I have to agree. I think "mothering" is a very good analogy to the ambiguous word "discipleship." Oh and by the way, I can't believe that we officially now share a niece! So weird and cool!