If you’ve spent any amount of time with a baby you know the feeling. I mean that feeling of frustration and exasperation. The feeling of wanting to throw your hands in the air and surrender. The feeling of being on the brink of tears and desperation.
The feeling that comes with trying to get your baby to sleep.
My baby boy fights naps like it’s his job. He cries and fusses.
I hold him. I rock him. I feed him. He cries and fusses more. The conditions seem perfect for sleep; everything the books encourage for sleep, everything my friends have tried, everything that worked for his older sister. Everything and anything to make it conducive for him to fall asleep.
But my sweet baby boy resists.
He probably doesn’t know the importance of sleep and all the science about how much his little body needs to rest. I would hope he prefers to be happy and smiley than tired and screaming, but sometimes I’m not sure.
In the moments that my boy has been resisting sleep (and in the moments when I’ve been a bit more clear-headed) I’ve wondered what I resist.
What things in my life do I know to be good and holy and life-giving for me, but I, too, like a tiny baby, flail and cry and resist with all my being that which is good for me?
Like my baby, I tend to resist rest, too. Real rest. That soulful rest.
The kind of rest that shuts down all the busyness and noise and unimportant distractions. The kind of rest that sits and listens. The kind of rest that isn’t worried about what happened five minutes before and five minutes after.
All too often I am the last one to rest.
By the time I let myself rest it’s turned into exhaustion. Rather than rest I simply fall into bed and am asleep in minutes.
I resist rest until I deem everything done – dishes washed and put away, toys picked up, lunches packed, clothes picked out, baths given, books read, laundry folded, and kids checked on.
All too often I resist the vital need to rest and bask in the silence and peace.
In this hyperconnected, social media age, it’s hard not to compare.
Whether scrolling Facebook or watching other families in our community, I can’t help but wonder if I’m not doing enough.
I can’t resist the urge to compare and see myself always coming up short. It’s easy to see another toddler talking and telling stories to their parents and to feel inadequate as my daughter with her speech delay talks in sounds and signs to me.
It’s easy to see that clean and organized house and to feel inadequate sitting amidst the piles and dust of our home.
I resist the truth that I am enough. That I do enough. That I’m doing just fine.
I resist the fact that just because someone does x, y, and z one way doesn’t mean that it is a better way.
I resist the voices telling me I am loved, not for what I do but for who I am.
I resist giving myself the grace and hospitality I share with others.
Sure I can bring a kind word to a friend, I can be someone else’s biggest cheerleader, I can open my door wide.
But when that same grace and hospitality is offered to me, I balk a bit. I downplay myself. I say thank you and offer an in-kind compliment. I never think someone should feel like they have to do all the things, but I fail to give myself that same grace.
Over and over again I resist those things that are healthy, whole and life-giving. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help myself.
As I’m resisting all these things and so much more, I look to my son.
What does he do in the midst of his crying and fussiness and not sleeping?
He cries a lot. He yawns. He struggles.
And finally, finally, he gives in and falls asleep held by his mama.
He’s wrapped in my embrace. Held tightly and lovingly.
After all the fighting and tears there’s nothing left to do but fall into the arms of someone who loves you.
No matter how much we resist we are all held in those same arms of love.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: KimberlyKnowleZeller.com