I’m feeling pretty smug. I just cleaned the bathroom.
I don’t know about you, but I find motherhood an emotional rollercoaster. You don’t have good days or bad days so much as good half-hours and bad half-hours. My husband or a friend asks how my day has been, and I don’t know how to answer. Once my husband heard me saying ‘Yeah, fine’ to a friend who asked that question; he proceeded to read out a text I’d sent him early that afternoon which simply read, ‘Misery. Misery. Misery.’
If you’ll allow me to generalise and make assumptions, here are some examples of Things That Make Mums Happy:
- Baby ate pureed food I’d cooked
- Child enjoyed first day back at school
- Toddler didn’t wet himself today
- Teenager helped with washing up without being asked to do so
- Breastfeed only took 15 minutes
- Managed to make it to 4.30pm without switching TV on
- Children ate their vegetables
- Made it back from supermarket without any child or mum having a tantrum
- Nobody woke us in the night needing a cuddle/a wee/some calpol/a good telling off
You can imagine the things that make mums sad are the opposites of the above. You could also add: hormones; loneliness; disappointment-with-self etc. Hopefully you see what I’m getting at. Sometimes things go really well and we feel wonderful; other times this is not so.
I was thinking recently, though, that perhaps my bad days might actually be my good days. Sound like great news? Let me explain.
I was listening to a talk from Mark Chapter 10: first we head that James and John, Jesus’ disciples, asked Jesus if they could be next to him in heaven, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ (v37). Cheeky monkeys! They wanted Jesus to make them great. They were very close to Jesus – closer than most. They saw an opportunity to be leaders of the pack; top dogs; heroes. And the sad thing is that to some extent, we all want to be recognised and rewarded. That’s what the world around us tells us we should do, too. The world applauds those who’ve ‘made it’ to the top of the ladder, especially if they’ve had to push other people out of the way in the process.
I imagine when James and John asked this of Jesus, they were feeling pretty confident. They must have felt they’d earned their places next to him. But of course, Jesus didn’t see this as their finest moment: “… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (V43-44)
God is not Alan Sugar (and vice versa, by the way). He doesn’t reward the proud. He lifts up the humble. And the next few verses of Mark 10 show us that beautifully. We see Jesus meeting a blind beggar called Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is desperate. He doesn’t come to Jesus asking for greatness or with a long, articulate prayer. He’s begging for mercy: “Son of David, have mercy on me.” My Pastor once told me that if I ever feel I can’t pray, this is what I could pray. It’s really all you need. ‘Son of David’ recognises that Jesus is the King. And ‘have mercy on me’ acknowledges our desperate need. He only asked Jesus for what he needed, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ And once Jesus had healed him, Bartimaeus followed Jesus along the road.
Of course, Bartimaeus did physically want to be able to see, but in Mark’s gospel blindness is used to show us that we are spiritually blind, and we need Jesus to give us spiritual sight.
If you compare James and John with Bartimaeus, you’d think J&J are doing pretty well spiritually, and their lives are generally ‘in a good place.’ Bartimaeus, on the other hand, is a wreck. But looking at it in terms of their relationships with Jesus, actually Bartimaeus is much healthier spiritually because he knows his desperate need, and Jesus rewards him for that. He grants his request; he lifts up the humble.
So it occurred to me, as I listened to this talk, that on my worst days when I’m finding it hard just to breathe in and out without bursting into tears; when the clock slows down and I’ve hit a wall; when all I can pray is, ‘Help!’ and some other huffy-puffy, groany noises, that’s when I’m actually more like Bartimaeus. So maybe on those desperate days, Jesus considers it a day in which I’ve learnt to rely on him a bit more. So to him, that’s a good day. And, on my days when I’ve cleaned the house, visited the elderly, made paper machete with the kids (I’ve never done that) and got them to eat their veg, if I’m really proud of myself then perhaps Jesus doesn’t really see that as a brilliant day for me. Of course, I could do all of those things and be humble and thankful, but I think I’d be more like James and John, looking forward to the applause and medal I should be receiving any day now for being so blooming marvellous. I feel self-sufficient. So in short, my good days are often my bad days and my bad days are actually my good days!
So perhaps next time I wake up from a broken night feeling worse than I did when I collapsed into bed the night before, I can cry out for mercy and know that Jesus is teaching me to rely more on him. And this is exactly what I need.
I realise this doesn’t help you to answer the ‘How was your day?’ question. If anything, it makes it harder! Sorry about that.