Encouragement for the Mom Hiding in the Bathroom
First off, let's just be clear. I am the mom hiding in the bathroom. I am my own audience here, guys. I totes hide in the bathroom on the daily, sometimes with a secret sugar, until the bathroom gets too filthy to be considered much of a refuge and then I just hide in there and shake my head at how inept our cleaning lady is. Seriously though. She's the worst.
I thought you should know that because I would hate for you to think I was preaching from some non-hiding-in-the-bathroom-and-stress-eating-mom-pedestal. And apparently I would also hate for you to think that my house was any cleaner than one notch above "hazmat". I am sure you are encouraged already. With that firm foundation laid we can move forward.
A few months back I read a familiar passage in Mark and it struck me anew, as scripture has an awesome way of doing. It was the passage from Mark 6:30-44 where Jesus feeds the 5000. Now, if you grew up in church you have probably heard this story yourself what feels like 5000 times. That's a bit how I felt reading it, but with this read the story touched me like it hadn't before, and I don't think I can ever look at it the same way again.
Jesus and his disciples were going at ministry hard, guys. Jesus was healing sick people, demon possessed people, and raising dead people. He was calming storms, dropping serious knowledge with parables and answering questions from the crowds of people that were following Him everywhere. The disciples were busy too. In the beginning of chapter 6 it says Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He told them not to pack anything for their mission-no food, no money, no change of clothes. They didn't even bring a bag or have a hotel all lined up to crash in at the end of a long day of doing Jesus-work in the hot sun. The disciples got to work telling people to repent and they "cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them". (vs 13).
In verse 30 the disciples met back up with Jesus and reported back to him all they had done. I can imagine they were a sweaty mix of elated and exhausted. Verse 31 says "And He (Jesus) said to them "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat." Have you ever felt that way-tired to your bones, in desperate need of rest -physically, mentally and emotionally? I don't think you have to be one of Jesus' disciples, a missionary or a pastor to be able to relate to this level of exhaustion. Mom hiding in the bathroom, I am pretty sure you can relate to this...maybe especially the part about not even having leisure to eat. Wasn't it awesome of Jesus to recognize their state and encourage them to get some rest? They must have felt such relief, perhaps similar to what we feel at 1pm when it is nap time. This promise of rest must have felt like a balm for their weary soul- a guarded, almost sacred few moments to recharge. They were going the work of God after all. Didn't they need and deserve a few moments to themselves to just eat and shut their eyes? Pretty sweet of Jesus to get that.
So they went by boat to get some R and R . But it says in verse 33 that "many saw them going, and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them."(pitter-patter of little feet anyone??) If this was a cheesy game show I would expect to hear the "wa-wa-wa" at this point. What a let down. Didn't the people get it? Where are the social graces? These guys need a break. They are trying to have some "me-time". I think of how the disciples must have felt. Jesus had set their expectations that this was going to be a time for them to have a break. They had such a deep need for rest, now they had just exhaled & settled into the expectation of rest, and then they look to the shore and see people clamoring for more, more of them, more of what they don't have left to give. I could cry hot tears just thinking of it, because I have been there. We all have. All of us moms hiding in the bathroom. The kids wake up from nap early. Someone is sick and it ruins our plans. Somebody else is extra needy or has a bad dream. The coffee gets cold. Lunch is forgotten. The book never gets past chapter one. The play date is canceled. Date night is postponed.
And then in verse 34 Jesus sees. And He goes. He looks ashore, then goes ashore and "he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd". Jesus' heart was moved by the desperate, almost pitiful state of the crowd. Instead of becoming incredulous or self-righteous, Jesus thinks nothing of Himself. He thinks only of them. He feels compassion. And out of compassion he acts. "And He began to teach them a great many things" (vs 34). Oh, how I love this. I love this because it reminds me of how I need to see my little sheep. It reminds me that I need to feel compassion for them and it needs to compel me to act. But I also love it to because while I see myself in the disciples, I also see myself in the crowd of people on the shore clamoring for Jesus. I look at the crowd and there I am. My face is in the sea, but as Jesus looks it is like I am the only one He sees. Just as the crowd needed Jesus' compassion that day, just as my kids need my compassion every day, I need Jesus' compassion now.
But there is more. I guess I had never realized this before, but this is the context in which the feeding of the 5000 took place. The disciples were exhausted and had just had their expectations of well-deserved rest dashed. I wonder how they felt when Jesus went ashore and started teaching the crowd, when instead of rowing away, he stepped close. I wonder if their shoulders slumped, or if they sighed the type of sigh that just about empties a person, or maybe the type of sigh that is meant for an audience. I wonder if they grumbled among themselves. I wonder if they questioned "why" or thought about hiding before dragging themselves out of the boat for one last effort. In verse 35 it says "And when it grew late the disciples came to him and said 'this is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat'. But He answered them 'You give them something to eat.'" Ummm...maybe Jesus didn't get it. The disciples were fresh out of resources. They didn't even have the opportunity to eat in peace themselves, how could they have the resources to feed these people? Didn't he remember that he had sent them out without food or money, at the mercy of the people they were ministering to? Had he forgotten that this was supposed to be their time for rest, at his own urging no less, and now he wants them to serve these people and feed them from nothing? This was Jesus' mission. Not theirs. They had wanted to stay in the boat. Jesus had kept the people there until it was past dinner time and now He wanted the disciples to solve the problem?
Has Jesus ever asked you to do something that seemed impossible, something that seemed unfair, what about impossible and unfair? I don't know about you, but in my propensity for drama I tend to think that most days motherhood seems both impossible and unfair. I often feel like I have nothing left to give and I am being asked to solve other people's problems and give when I am running on empty. I am sure you do too.
I guess I never realized before that it is from this place of exhaustion and interrupted rest that Jesus performs the miracle of feeding 5000 people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. It seems so fitting, so Jesus-like, that while He nourished the crowd physically, He also undoubtedly nourished His disciples, meeting their needs, so they could continue in their work. Jesus knew their state. He knew they needed to be filled back up. So, He offered rest, only to allow it to be interrupted. It seems almost cruel, like dangling a lollipop in front of a child only to rip it away. I wonder if the disciples were wondering why Jesus only seemed to have compassion on the crowds. What about them? One of my favorite parts of all this is that what appears to be inconsiderate at best, is actually tender love. When it looks like Jesus is only having compassion on the crowds, He is actually have compassion on the disciples too. He is teaching them where their true rest is found, where their true sustenance is found-and it was not on the boat. It was in Him, in obedience, in faithful service, in abiding in Jesus. He was able to give them what they lacked and to fill them up to bursting.
After all the people had eaten there was more food leftover than when they began. As the disciples gathered up the leftovers I wonder what they were thinking. Their hearts must have been brimming over with amazement. I wonder if they "got it". I wonder if they made the connection that Jesus was filling up more than just stomachs that day. If Jesus had never allowed them to get to a place of sheer exhaustion, aching hunger,dashed expectations and interrupted rest then they never would have had the chance to be filled up by Him. The rest they craved would never have satisfied the way Jesus did. And just to prove it He does a miracle. He takes a little and stretches it to achieve the impossible. What the disciples could never have done on their own, Jesus does, but he allows them to be a part of it! Mom hiding in the bathroom, this is what we get to do too! We get to come to the end of ourselves and let Jesus take over. We get to offer up our 5 loaves and 2 fish and watch Jesus feed a multitude. We get to see him do more than we could ever ask or imagine in our homes, more than we would ever be able to do on our own, and He wants to use us to accomplish it! Whoa.
I don't think there is anything wrong with your moments in the bathroom. But just know this, when it comes time to come out, there is work to be done. And it is God's work. It might not seem like it, but it is. You are surrounded by sheep and you are their shepherd, in a sense. While the rest is never enough, and the work seems impossible, you are not alone. God wants to do the miraculous through your obedience, your trust, your service. So, lets get out of the boat together. Let's come out of the bathroom. Let's gather our few resources and lay them at the feet of Jesus. And then let's get to work, His work, from the strength He provides, with His grace to sustain us. I am certain that with Jesus those loaves and fish will go farther then they could ever go without Him. And I am certain that this work, this loaf and fish type of work, is the stuff that God wants me to be a part of. When I look at it that way I am amazed at the privilege of it all, even when it all looks so demeaning. Let's look at our kids with Jesus' eyes and move toward them with Jesus's compassion. And let's never forget that those same eyes that saw the crowds look at us and those same feet that stepped out of the boat move towards us with the same compassion,. His sheep.