“They” say parenthood is an opportunity for refinement. “They” also say what does not kill you makes you stronger. I don’t think these people are in the same group of “they.” A few months into this first-time parenthood, my husband and I sometimes feel like walking clichés. Protective (me). Sometimes paranoid (me). Reading way too many articles online and then sending them to her husband (surprise! also me). Tired but loving most moments (both of us). If this isn’t the prime environment for refinement, I don’t know what is.
Armed with the knowledge that I don’t know anything about parenting, I joined a mama's small group. I figured I would look to the sages of this life stage, and these beautiful mamas welcomed me with love and grace and support. This semester we’re studying the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I wouldn’t be a Christian if I didn’t confess that I groaned inwardly a little when I heard the topic. It’s not that I don’t love the fruits of the Spirit—I do. It’s just every time I study them, it’s an opportunity for me to see just how much I don’t allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life, which I guess is kinda the point. We started with love, with the goal of teaching our kiddos about this fruit the following week. The leader suggested mamas with babies to pray for this fruit in their marriages.
And so I prayed.
Eric is a fantastic dad to our Sweet Girl and a supportive hubby to me. He wakes up in the middle of the night with me to burp her and change her diaper. Despite all this, fatigue is rich soil for frustration to grow. Add a fussy baby or a blowout, and we have the makings of war. Some of our “best” exchanges have happened in the middle of the night. And so I prayed for that fruit of the Spirit, love. I prayed I would be encouraged and empowered by the Spirit to respond to my husband with love when it was the toughest for me. And just as I had suspected, an opportunity that very night came my way.
I was especially tired when Sweet Girl woke to eat, so I did the logical thing of trying to sleep while I was sitting up with her. We were done, and with my eyes closed, I began sweeping across the bed next to me to wake Eric to do his part of the job. I brushed against his stretched arm and accidentally tickled his underarm. I knew as soon as I did, a lecture would soon follow about could I please not tickling him in the middle of the night? Because when you’re going on little sleep, the logic of accidents and intentions go out the door.
Remember the fruit. Respond in love, respond in love. Just apologize. I told myself.
“Whatever. Whatever!” I grumbled over his lecture and rolled over to go back to sleep. Well, I tried, I lied to myself.
Refinement over until next time, right? Yup, and that next time would be the following night at the young adult small group my husband and I lead. In this small group, we’re reading through the book of Philippians; Paul and Timothy encourage believers to live a life that reflects the gospel (Philippians 1:27). Okay, Holy Spirit, I see you.
Sometimes it’s most challenging to live a life that reflects the gospel with the people closest to you—your spouse, your roommate, your sibling. Sometimes living by the fruits of the Spirit at home can be difficult. That’s the opportunity for refinement and the opportunity to do it all relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit—regardless if you’re a first-time parent like me or not.
How we follow Jesus behind closed doors matters. It’s easy to follow Jesus when I meet with a college student for discipleship. I can follow Jesus during a prayer night at church. I will love my small group people well and point them to Jesus for the few hours a week I see them. It’s how we follow Jesus at home with our loved ones that show we are Women Disciples.
So I went back to my husband and apologized and asked for forgiveness. And I got to apologize for two things this time—waking him in an annoying way and my poor attitude in response to him. I know God is so good that he’ll give me more opportunities to live by the fruit of the Spirit, love. Only eight more to go…
Movement Step: Take some time to pray and reflect on how you follow Jesus behind closed doors. Does our life reflect the gospel? Do we live by the fruit of the Spirit? Pray and ask God to show you how you can do these things and write down what God says. Invite the Holy Spirit to strengthen you to follow God. When we make mistakes, let’s go back and apologize and seek forgiveness.