“I love my breast pump” … said no mother ever.
My two-month-old just started sleeping through the night. Prior to this monumental victory, I had every intention to resume my early morning prayer and meditation ritual (a.k.a. “quiet time”) once I was getting a full night’s sleep. Theoretically speaking, it was a brilliant plan. While my infant is no longer waking me up in the wee hours, my boobs failed to get the memo. By 5 a.m., I am lying awake (usually in a puddle) contemplating either pumping or waking my sleeping infant to nurse for fear that my husband and my other two children will surely be washed away by my maternal supply before dawn. Needless to say, all my good intentions for prioritizing morning prayer and sacred contemplation have been traded for the Sunrise Double Electric.
I am a creature of habit. Therefore, spiritual disciplines like solitude and contemplation have easily become part of my daily routine. When I was single, I would nestle under a blanket every morning to pray, write, read, listen, and/or sing for what seemed like hours. I was completely unrestrained, uninterrupted, self-directed, perhaps even a tad indulgent in my quietness and solitude. It was my religion.
Then I got married. While newlyweds must make room for all manor of intimacy, I found that trying to have a quiet time with another person in the room felt more like going to bathroom with the door open. It was awkward. We tried having a quiet time in the same room, in separate rooms, reading aloud, reading quietly, praying together, praying alone … we settled for a side-by-side arrangement with the occasional interruption to offer a Scripture, a commentary, or a revelation too inspiring not to share. It may have been a small sacrifice of solitude, but at least he was quiet. Sometimes. After 3 years of snuggling alongside my soulmate enjoying God’s word and his presence, I guess you could say that became my religion.
Once we had children, quietness and solitude became a lost luxury. I needed to get creative. I needed to get up earlier. Much much earlier. At 5 a.m., I would sneak downstairs to curl up in the red chair while the rest of the house slept.
This armless, upholstered, slightly musty, yard sale find became the regular setting for my morning meditation. It might only be half an hour before I would hear a child stirring and my focus automatically split, but it was a glorious 30 minutes of reading and prayer that I needed to get me through the day. Early mornings in the red chair became my religion.
Fast forward to present day. Not only is quietness and solitude more of a remote fantasy than ever before, but the red chair lies buried beneath a stack of loose bills, coloring pages, and leftover bags of Christmas candy. Now, shortly after my feet hit the floor, I wire up to the double dignity-draining electric pump, and just as it begins sucking-sucking-sucking away my very will to live, I not only realize how a dairy cow must feel, but I mourn the loss of my sacred silence more than ever. I dream of solitude. I reminisce about the tenderness of the early morning, my first cup of coffee, and the feeling of being spiritually and mentally prepared for the day ahead. These days, I feels as if I am losing my religion.
Last week, I lamented to my husband in a fit of postpartum melodrama that my soul was waaaasting awayyyyy for want of some quiet time. He reminded me that with three small kids, we are both better off taking what we can get — in the shower, in the car, on the treadmill, before falling asleep … and yes … hooked up to the breast pump. This wasn’t exactly the encouragement I was looking for, but it did make me pause and ask myself the question:
Have I mistaken my religious practices for pure devotion to Christ?
Admittedly, I have.
And so, while it isn’t exactly serene, meditative, or satisfying, nor does it bear any resemblance to the former time and space I enjoyed so well, some Word is better than no Word. Jotting down even a few lines in my prayer journal is better than letting my unbridled thoughts wreak havoc on the day ahead. One day, I will enjoy my home and my body all to myself again. While I am swimming in time, space, and meditative solitude, I hope to remember that while religious routines have their charms, they cannot replace pure devotion to Christ marked by a deep and desperate dependence.