It was the middle of an Arizona summer, when opening your front door is like checking an oven, and I had cabin fever. No mother in a Minnesota blizzard ever had it as bad as I did. After all, kids can still play outdoors in ten feet of snow. (“Go build a snowman or something. Don’t come back inside until you can’t feel your nose!”) In Phoenix, in the middle of July the only thing you can do outside is sweat or get a sunburn. Usually both.
So my children and I were spending a lot of time together, and I was getting restless. I’d been reading a book called The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard. It was about becoming an apprentice of Jesus. I was getting a lot out of it, as I read it in snatches, but some of what Willard said made me grind my teeth in frustration. Though I knew he was right, what he suggested seemed completely divorced from the day to day reality of my world.
He recommended cultivating spiritual disciplines, including Solitude, and Silence. “By solitude we mean being out of human contact, being alone, and being so for lengthy periods of time….Silence is a natural part of solitude and is its essential completion. Most noise is human contact. Silence means to escape from sounds, noises, other than the gentle ones of nature,” (Willard, 357).
“I’d love a little solitude and silence,” I wanted to scream, “but there are still six more weeks of summer vacation!” I began to understand the impetus behind monasticism. How was I supposed to get closer to God with my kids constantly under foot?
According to Willard, apprentices of Jesus ought to be asking, “What would Jesus do if He were me?” Given my life, my calling, my circumstances, what would Jesus do? So I asked Him. I wrote in my journal, “Lord, if you were me, how would you balance the need for silence and solitude with the important responsibilities of mothering my children?”
The Lord reminded me of how He had responded to having children under foot: “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14b)
That last phrase, “… the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” made me sit up and take notice. Apprentices of Jesus should strive to live as citizens of the kingdom here and now. The Lord was saying that His kingdom belongs to little children.
I began to wonder, what if these are not just “pretty words”? What if Jesus really meant what He says here? Would He want me to view my children as spiritual role models, instead of as hindrances to my devotional life? What might I learn about the kingdom of heaven from the example of my children?
One answer came almost immediately. That day, my kids turned on music and danced for hours, just for the sheer joy of it. And the Lord said to my spirit, “When was the last time you danced for Me like that?”
Rebecca D. Bruner © 2011