I think my hands trembled just a little as I unwrapped the test. I’d had nausea for a couple of days and I’d fallen asleep in the middle of the afternoon. What a relief, was all I could think. What a relief that I don’t have to be in control of my life, in control of my own happiness. If it bore two red lines, the promise of a new precious life, I didn’t need to be frightened – this wasn’t my show.
Two red lines. And we laughed, the kind of laugh tired parents with two tiny children might laugh, with delirious joy. Because we know now just how tired you get, just how worn down you get. And we know that there is no greater earthly sweetness than holding their fat little limbs, than hearing their whispers, than learning what joy really is through their tiny lives. That really, even wrapped up in vomit and tantrums and neediness, there is nothing on earth closer to God than them.
Two red lines, it showed, and so we begin.
I’ve been very sick during the last couple of months, with morning (all day, all night) sickness. These have been difficult days, days when my bed has been my home. Days of endless slices of toast and Coke in the morning, cold and sweet, at 7 a.m. These have been days when I groan and stretch and when I feel like I can’t endure an hour more, her face pops round door, shining eyes and chubby cheeks, and I felt strengthened by the joy of seeing her. These have been days, long-houred days, of mindless television and worship infiltrating my heart as I lie on my side. Of watching the world outside whizz by in colour and anticipation and knowing one day I will join it, but not now. These have been days of weakness and trembling, of sweating and aching. These have been days I feel like a newborn myself, reaching out for help and collapsing in rest when I receive it. These have been days when a life is formed underneath my skin. And I stretch and give way, knowing that one day I will see the face of this new baby popping round the door, and my heart will be glad.
I have given my womb into His hands, given Him permission to direct it’s course, to give it life whenever He might desire it. I begin to see why. It would have been easier for me to achieve projects, to use creativity, to sit in meetings, to love the unlovely in the morning with my free time, to do ministry ‘out there’, not in my home, to pack it all up at the end of the day with my laptop and Bible. Those things aren’t always easy, I know that. But they might have been easier for me. I know that because when I did those things, I loved God so much, and I prayed – sometimes fervently, sometimes professionally – but I didn’t know Him like I do now that I mother.
This calling has driven a well inside me.
It emptied me dry, desperate and thirsty. It has swollen my insides to burst with a love so tender, so powerful I feel heady at the weight of its fragrance. The mundanity has left me thirsty. The demands have left me needy. The joy has left me full. The tenderness has cut my heart open. And more than anything, I have sought Him, in tiny fragments all through the day. And the night. I am not able to pack my life away at the end of the day. I am not able to pack Him away either – and I don’t want to. Because in my neediness, He gathers His needle and thread, and sews through my insides His beauty. It pierces, it cuts, it heals, I blossom. Motherhood made Him everything, all the time. I don’t walk around spiritually impressive – far from it, mostly I crawl – but my heart is undivided.
In these days we have also bought a house, in Manenberg. I turned up to the estate agent’s meeting in Spur, with it’s bright lights and faux-leather seats, feeling awful, staggering sick through the mall. The girls played and we sat together, Nick and I and two estate agents, sisters from Manenberg themselves. And I filled in the forms, but if I’m honest that day I didn’t really feel like it. Sickness makes me gravitate towards everything easy. It tells me I want a big house and safety and loveliness and wooden floors and sweet playgroups and trees, and it makes me feel all slow, like curling up and saying no. No to brokenness, no to guns, no to concrete, no to the hard places.
I signed the papers.
This is a change, this swelling life in my stomach, and I find questions fluttering around my head. With three kids can you really do anything in Manenberg? Motherhood is hard enough, isn’t it? Stay somewhere safe and nice, and you raise your kids. There’s no point living there if you just mother. And are they really going to be okay? And as if the internal voices aren’t enough, external ones prod and push: You must get a gun. You mustn’t walk alone. Those people don’t care if you’re a Christian.
So I take a deep breath and remember my basics.
One. This short, short, super-short life is about heaven. Eternity is the only thing that matters. In just a few years, bam! whoosh! I will be with Him forever. So I live for that.
Two. This world is horrifically, brutally broken. There are children walking the streets in Manenberg looking for food at five years old, with no adult in sight. There are thirteen year old girls raped in school buildings. There are people with pale skin colour hiding behind gates, eating another tuna salad, wishing it would all go away. There are people everywhere who are hungry for God and hurtling towards a forever without Him. It scares me a little to think about that, but it also crystallises everything into perfect clarity. I have to give, to go, to love, to lay down. It’s His heart.
Three. I really think He is asking us. What else do I do? I want any no ripped out of my heart. I want to always give Jesus a yes.
Four. My kids are smart. If I teach them to love Jesus with all their heart and always give them their yes, but then I give Him a no because I’m scared for their benefit, it’s a bit confusing for everyone.
Five. I really want more of Him. More than anything. More than I want my own body, so I break it open and shout a celebratory yes to the life He’s given me. More than I want my own time, so I welcome these little ones into my space and celebrate, because it’s a deeper joy than I could have dreamed. I want Him more than security, more than predictability, more than a big white house surrounded by peony bushes. I have been close to Jesus. I have seen His eyes and I have known His tenderness, and this is what I want.
I am simple and I like these simple building blocks. When I think about these things, I feel strong. I feel like life just came back into my lungs and my eyesight became sharp. Like I ate something nutritious. Sometimes I wish I found waltzing around in his will more natural, like a dance, rather than a race where I need to stop, eat and refresh. But it’s better this way. It is God Himself, not my personality, who is making me strong. And it feels miraculous.