Monday, February 20, 2017
As soon as I walked into church I smelled that familiar smell. So, there I found myself behind the sanctuary in the appropriately named, "Mother's Cry Room," (I have cried in there numerous times) changing a poopy diaper. Missing worship, something that I love. Thinking about how unfair it was. Thinking about the many things that I have given up for this child without much more than the occasional coy smile or open-mouth kiss in return. When I was reminded, this is the Jesus way.
"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
So, Emerson, I will keep laying down my life for you on Jesus' behalf. And, hopefully, on the other side of this, I will be more like him.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
As I was reading the bible last week Jesus brought me to Luke 5. It’s the moment when Jesus calls his first disciples to leave everything and follow him. “Don’t worry, soon you will be fishing for people,” he tells them. What a comforting thought.
Jesus happens upon these grisly, seasoned fishermen after a bad night of fishing. In fact, they have nothing to show for a full night’s work. Their boats are at rest, their nets are being cleaned. Climbing aboard one of the boats, Jesus asks the men to go back out to sea, just a little ways, so that he can preach to the crowds from a safe distance. They oblige. When he is finished, the prophet has the audacity to instruct them to try fishing again. Simon reminds Jesus, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!”
To toil is to work extremely hard or incessantly. Fishing is Simon’s trade, so I’d imagine he knows the ins and outs of catching fish. He probably used the best techniques, fished at the optimum time, and put down his nets in the place where they were most likely to—as modern fishermen would say—get a few bites. Yet he caught nothing. Can you empathize with Simon’s frustration? Have you ever toiled after something and despite your best efforts found yourself with a big ole net full of nothing?
Most recently, I have been working incessantly at helping my six-month-old son learn how to sleep. Let’s just say, I have a few choice words for whoever coined the phrase, “sleeping like a baby.” For over a month my son, who once let me sleep in glorious eight hour chunks regularly, has been waking up every one, two, or three hours needing to be rocked back to sleep. I have scoured the internet for explanations and ideas. The best I could come up with was that he was in a “sleep regression,” (because his sleep had gone from easy-peasy newborn sleep, to more adult-like sleep—moving in and out of light and deep sleep) and he’d developed some “sleep associations,” namely being rocked by dear old mom and dad (meaning he when he moved out of a sleep cycle he woke up and didn’t know how to get himself back to sleep without our help).
Determined to fix this, I began to try everything I could think of. We moved him from his Pack ‘N Play in our room, to his crib in his own room. We added a white noise machine. We blacked out his window. We bought him a suit that promised to have magical sleeping powers. We implemented a bed time routine. We moved him to an earlier bedtime. We worked to get him to fall asleep in his crib—by any means necessary: patting, shushing, picking up and putting down, lovies, binkies, music, you name it, we tried it. And we waited.
I would guess that nothing about Jesus’ request made sense to Simon. He had already worked his hardest to try and catch fish: with no results. Why would he try it again? For whatever reason, he was obedient anyway. As Jesus had asked, Simon put the boat out into deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Next, the fishermen encompass what could accurately be described as a ridiculous amount of fish in their nets. In fact, the nets can’t even handle the amount of fish they have caught, because they start breaking! There are so many fish that they have to call out to their partners for help! There are so many fish that they fill not one, but two boats, to the point of almost sinking under the weight. One night, they put out their nets, and nothing. The next day, they put out their nets and they are so full they start to break.
This week I started to feel hopeless, as I have at various points during Emerson's sleep journey. We’ve had good nights and bad nights. There have been nights when the baby was up every hour, and nights when he only woke up twice. There have been nights when we heard him self-soothe multiple times, and nights when he wouldn’t even try. We had been overall making progress, but it hadn’t been linear. We were at a point where most nights he would wake up around three times and we were getting at least a four hour chunk of consecutive sleep consistently. That felt survivable. Then, three times this week, baby boy decided to be up basically every two hours again. A couple of those nights when he woke up he really struggled to fall back asleep. I was devastated. I was sleep-deprived. I was confused. I wondered why God wasn’t intervening. I knew he had the authority to do so. And yet, I believed that he was good; I believed that he loved me. Loving my baby through this stage was the work he had given me to do, and I would continue to do it even though it was difficult. Even if it seemed like my efforts weren't yielding any fruit.
The passage in Luke spoke to my situation in a few ways. As I read, I heard God telling me this:
1. You don’t have as much control as you think. Because at the end of the day, you can do all the right things and still not catch any fish. I needed to stop blaming myself when Emerson had a bad night. I needed to let go of the guilt I was feeling. You can’t make fish swim into your net; you can’t make babies sleep.
2. Listen for my voice. Jesus told Simon where and when to drop his nets. So I asked for help, and listened. When I thought Jesus was giving me an idea for something to try with Emerson, I’d obey.
3. Don’t lose hope. You might have no results one day, and more results than you know what to do with the next. Simon fished all night and got nothing. The very next day he began to fish and instantly caught a bounty. I knew that I couldn’t give up hope. I might try my best to get my son to sleep one day, and see nothing come of it. But the next day might be the day he gets it and finally sleeps through the night.
It turns out that is exactly what happened. One night, Emerson was up every two-three hours needing to be rocked to sleep. I didn’t hear him attempt to fall back to sleep even once. The next night, I tried again and my nets started breaking! Emerson slept for ten hours straight! He has only done that a handful of times. Even back when he was consistently sleeping through the night it was typically six-eight hour stretches. I’m not saying we’re out of the woods yet. We may have more rough nights ahead of us yet, but I know that my son is getting it. He is learning how to sleep on his own. Above all, I know that God is faithful—on nights when I toil for nothing and I nights when I get a net overflowing with fish.
Are you toiling today? Remember that God is good, and he loves you. These things are true whether we get zero results or abundant results. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself because you can’t make fish swim into a net. Listen for Jesus’ voice telling you where and when. Then, drop your nets, yet again, hopeful for a catch. Because you never know which day God is going to step in and bless you. One day, you might get nothing, and the next he might fill your nets until they're breaking.