A note from Amy: Andrea is a writer, mother, and student working towards a Masters of Divinity. The first time I met Andrea was in my house for a cup of tea. I was instantly impressed by her assertiveness, her humor, and her passion. I am a big fan of this woman.
Before the pandemic I considered myself a pretty good mom. My kids come to me with their worldly troubles, seek my advice and comfort, and enjoy being in our prayerful and supportive home. They challenge me with their questions about God and work with me through family devotionals and prayers. I’m regularly complimented by teachers and other parents about their sweet and kind natures, and they even manage manners most of the time. All in all these are good outward signs—fruit, if you will—that I’m parenting to the best of my ability and they are responding in a flourishing way. Perfect I am not, but we practice apologizing, repentance, and forgiveness as a family.
As I stare down the beginning of week six of our socially distant, semi-quarantined pandemic lives, however, it is clear that I’m now in the refiner’s fire deeper than ever. Having tweens suddenly around 24/7 like the days of toddlerhood (we are a public schooling family) has confused my instrument panel and I feel only now, forty-something days in, that I’m regaining control. Not of them, but of myself and my missional motherhood.
Our days have a new rhythm of sorts now, and I’m not as exhausted as I was in weeks one through five. I’m arguably more tired in general than before because this is a worldwide traumatic event and we are under, collectively, a grave amount of stress and uncertainty. On top of all that, the life I’d been working so hard to cultivate in our home over the last year, after two years of non-stop crises and trauma, came under fire. No longer is our home simply the source of comfort and refuge from the outside world, it is our world now, only similar to the days of infancy and toddlerhood in our togetherness, but so unlike it in our isolation.
Like most Americans, our church services are being streamed via YouTube, and my family gathers together in the living room each Sunday morning (sometimes in PJs) to sing together and listen to our pastor deliver the week’s message. I do so miss communal worship and know it will return, but I feel its loss—and a million other little losses—deeply during these pandemic times.
Ever the student, I sit on the couch on these Sunday mornings with my notebook in my lap to jot down the pastor’s words and scribble thoughts of my own. All this despite the sermon outline notes being available on an app our church has linked with. I need to write things by hand to really hear them. This past Sunday, something I really heard slowed my wrist and fingers to a near halt and drew my eyes warily to the TV in the corner of our living room because I was sure I’d misheard.
At the tail end of a sermon about hearing God’s voice, following God’s commands, and trusting in God’s plan, our pastor circled back to the need of the Body of Christ to be in the Word to know the Word and live the Word. I agree with this wholeheartedly as, it seems, all around me biblical literacy is at an all-time low. However, in his pitch to reacquaint those who perhaps glance at Bible cliff-notes, he pointed out the margin that this pandemic has created, sad as it may be, in our lives.
A lot of things are off the table now, you see, and our schedules are freer—margin has been restored! A gentle but firm voice from the TV suggested that some of this margin could be used for reacquaintance with the Word for those among us who’ve lamented about “not having the time.” True as this may be, for the first time in as long as I can remember I could not relate to a single word of that portion of the message.
You see, in my pandemic experience, all the margin is gone. Sucked away overnight by the foreboding threat of an invisible enemy, the once-sacred margins of my day have disappeared.
I am a stay-at-home mom of public-school children. While my days were mostly filled with satisfying the requirements of my Masters of Divinity degree, they were also abundant in margin: the wee hours of the morning, the moments after school drop-off before I got down to work, the margin inside the freedom to run errands and lunch with other stay-at-home mom friends or take a call just to talk in the middle of the day are all gone, and suddenly.
While I’ve been able to rearrange my schedule to allow for a full hour in the morning to sip coffee silently, meet God ahead of a long day of distance learning (which is absolutely nothing like homeschooling and is my least favorite educational option right now), and take a breath, I’ve realized that creating extra margin right now is less important than what I do with the moments where the margin used to lay. And, if you’re reading this, maybe you’re feeling this tug too.
Before, as I’ve come to call all of the time before mid-March, I read books about the mission of motherhood, the mission of the home, wives and mothers being missionaries in our communities, of course, but with our husbands and children first. To minister to those I spend the most time with and have the most intimate connections with has been my heart’s most earnest desire since I became a mother twelve years ago. I’ve purchased the books, read the blogs, listened to the sermons, and connected with other moms who, too, saw their season of motherhood to children living at home as the highest calling, and tried to do their best with it.
As moms (or any primary caregiver) we are the True North of the daily lives of our families and better have the guidance of the One who created north to guide us and to point them to. Our rest will come, but it is not now. Now is the time to join with God in our refinement as we refine our homes and our families to re-enter the world as bearers of the Word for a generation lost and scrambling. A generation facing fear and uncertainty as frequently as the sun rises it seems. Between school shootings, terrorism, natural disasters, and micro-biological threats, this generation needs God in a time when churches are emptying and faith is mocked as anti-intellectual and quaint.
This mission without margin requires that we step out of the pages of all the Christian-mommy literature and devotions and meet this pandemic head on, leading our children to pray for healing and peace and real-life miracles that point the lost undeniably to God. And, of course, to weep with those who weep as Jesus did. This is true battle, and in it God himself is our only margin and our only source of rest and restoration.
Chin up and shoulders back, on our knees in the morning and at night. We are missionaries on the front of the hearts of the next generation. And, when the margin returns, let us rejoice and remember both the before and the during, bringing into our new after only the things that serve and point to God.
You are enough-
because the Great I AM is in you, and with you, and for you.
He is enough.Ann Voskamp
You can read more about Andrea Miles here at andrearandall.com.