There’s a miracle story in the Bible that’s so important that it shows up in all four Gospels.It takes place on a crowded hillside where thousands of people have gathered to hear Jesus preach. It gets to be late in the day, and the people are getting hungry. Someone starts passing around a basket of bread and fish. It’s barely enough for one family, but somehow everyone gets fed with plenty left over. There’s enough to go around.
Love is like that, somehow. Even when it seems like there can’t possibly be enough, there is.
I want my kids to know they are loved, fully and equally. I want them to know there will always be enough of me to go around. I want our family to be a place where we practice that sort of miracle, knowing there will be times we don’t do it very well. I want our family to be a place where even when it feels like we’re giving up everything, we’re finding ourselves again. I want our family to share.
Sharing is risky business, of course. The other kid at the sandbox could break the shovel if you let him play with it. You might not get your doll back. Sharing my body with these two children means I may never again fit into that cute brown dress I bought pre-pregnancy. Sharing my life with these three other people means I don’t get much quiet time to read; it means the house is almost always a little more cluttered (and sometimes a lot more cluttered) than I’d like. Rob and I are tied to each other’s schedules, our lives are intertwined in a way they never were before. Sometimes we step on one another’s toes—literally and metaphorically. Sometimes the thing we’re sharing is a case of pinkeye that sends us all to the doctor for eye drops.
But the great thing about sharing is that it goes both ways. Never, in The Giving Tree, does the boy bring water or fertilizer to the tree; the giving is completely one-sided. Sharing, almost by definition, demands reciprocity. “Pregnancy and care of children,” writes Miller-McLemore, “present an opportunity to realize, perhaps for the first time, that sacrifice—responsiveness to others, and autonomy—responsiveness to oneself—are not mutually exclusive.”8 Sharing is giving, and sometimes it’s sacrifice. But it’s not an all-consuming sacrifice that leaves us with nothing. Instead, it’s the kind of giving that comes right back to us, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Being in a family doesn’t mean giving up who you are. It means sharing who you are. It’s not without risk. Our toys, our bodies, our beds, our homes might come back a little worse for the wear. But living faithfully requires a trust that there will be enough to go around. There’s enough room in the bedroom for both Harper and Jonathan. There’s enough room on my lap for both of them. The hope, here, on those days when I feel stretched to the limit and there are too many people in my bed, is the assurance that there is enough.
This morning, Harper came into the bathroom while I was in the shower. Though we’re working on privacy, we still pretty much have an open-door policy in our bathroom, and there are often moments in the morning rush when all four of us are in there. (Why yes, I am dreading the teenage years.) But this morning Rob was off at the gym, and Jonathan was still in his crib, so it was just the two of us. She was in a good mood and dressed already—something of a miracle in itself—and though I don’t think she had anything she needed to do in the bathroom, she gravitates toward people and doesn’t like to be alone.
“Hi, Mom,” she said, from the other side of the shower curtain. “I love you.”
I smiled and said I loved her too, and went back to washing my hair.
“What comes after L in love, Mom?” she asked a minute later.
“O,” I said, and vaguely wondered what she was doing. She’s just on the verge of reading these days, and often sounds out words or wants to know how to spell something.
When I turned off the water and reached for my towel, she was standing next to the tub, grinning at me. “Look what I did, Mom. See?” In the fog on the mirror above the sink, she had written the words Mom and Love and had drawn a lopsided smiley face. “Because I couldn’t get in the shower to hug you.”
Love is a miracle.
This article is adapted and excerpted from Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Lee Hull Moses, copyright © 2012 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.
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Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People
by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Lee Hull Moses
Bromleigh McCleneghan and Lee Hull Moses have written a book about being not-perfect parents in a not-perfect world. The result is a joyous celebration of child-rearing in which any parent—no matter how perfect—can share. Hopes and Fears is neither a “how-to” book nor a mere meditation. Rather, the authors seek to find the beautiful and the spiritual in the sometimes mundane activities that parents have performed since the beginning of history, while at the same time allowing beautiful and spiritual insights of the past to inform and shape the activities of modern parenting.
Practicing Balance: How Congregations Can Support Harmony in Work and Life
by David Edman Gray
Work-life imbalance is a problem that has personal, national, and religious implications. Millions of Americans sense that they are rushing through life and that their work and non-work lives compete with one another. Many of us are harming our health through overwork. David Gray’s Practicing Balance demonstrates why congregational leaders should take work-life imbalance seriously.
One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Spirit-Led Living
by Timothy C. Geoffrion
Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims walk el Camino de Santiago—the Way of St. James—a 500-mile route across northern Spain that has existed for over a thousand years. Tim Geoffrion made this pilgrimage with his wife and teenage sons in 2006. He writes not only about his own journey but about how God works in those who seek to be led by the Spirit. Using pilgrimage as a metaphor for the Spirit-led life, he offers his experiences, thoughts, and reflections as a catalyst for readers’ own spiritual pilgrimage—the lifelong journey of growth into the life Christ intends for us. Whether or not we ever travel a path like El Camino, we can each learn how to better walk our own spiritual pilgrimage, one step at a time.
The church year is often seen as a framework for church programs, but well-known Alban author Charles Olsen shows readers how it can be a prism through which congregations more deeply understand their own stories. By weaving together our narratives and those of Christian tradition, a congregation can clarify its identity, grow in wisdom, and discover a new vision for ministry.
A Generous Presence: Spiritual Leadership and the Art of Coaching by Rochelle Melander
This is not a “how to be a coach” manual; rather, it brings the lessons and insights of the coaching world to ministers and other spiritual leaders in a way that is uplifting and relevant for their work. The tools provided in this book will help leaders understand themselves and enable them to strengthen their definitions for healthy living, raise their awareness about their own life and relationship skills, and improve their skills in relating to individuals and groups.
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Clergy Wellbeing: Balancing Your Ministry, Renewing Your Life
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Dealing with Difficult Behavior
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Aligning Strategy & Spirit: Whole Systems Planning and Leading
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Stepping up to Staffing and Supervision
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