One of the biggest challenges for me about being a parent of two very small children is how a simple thing can take so much time and feel SO HARD. The last few days have been marked by a brutal heat/humidity wave and it has made me a bit of a grouch (or “ouch” as Mercy calls her favorite Sesame Street friend). I keep trying to tell myself, “Erika, at least your not pregnant this summer!”, something I have NOT been able to say the last two, but I have found myself feeling overwhelmed and a bit claustrophobic. I want so badly to escape the heat but we don’t have a big yard for the kids to run in, our neighbors gave us a little pool but we have nowhere to set it up and leave it so it sits in a box, and to even THINK about going outside requires so much sunscreen we might as well just get on each other’s nerves in the living room!
I am realizing that it is the hard work of getting clothes and diapers and shoes and socks on and milk chilled and bottles fixed and nalgenes filled and bjorns packed and snacks found, and the seemingly neverending list of what is required to simply go out the door that I can find paralyzing. I am feeling foolish even now as I write this because, C’mon Erika, none if this is hard. Get your act together! But once you mix in a temper tantrum, a poop, and a spit-up, it can start to feel just plain impossible.
I was thinking today that this is a lot like the kinds of relationships we are trying to fill our lives with right now. Because we are choosing to share our lives with people from different ethnic backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds, different socio-economic backgrounds, relating to people can feel a bit like trying to leave my house with two little ones: there are any number of reasons why it can just feel so hard. And it can be very, very tempting to just not put yourself through the mess of it!
Yesterday when I was feeling overwhelmed I strapped the kids into their carseats and we just drove around, the wind blowing our sweat-wet hair off our faces. I didn’t have a diaper bag packed for them and neither child had shoes on: but the amount of effort I did put out paid off. Auntie Anna and cousins Jordan and Isaiah had just come home when we drove by their house and we ended up having a delightful afternoon trying out their new hose attachment and eating watermelon.
I am reminded that we can all be like this in one way or another: sometimes the prospect of what it would take to do something exhausts us so we opt for doing nothing. It can be that relationship with someone very different form us, that great volunteer opportunity we keep talking about getting involved with, that spiritual discipline we long for in our life. What it would require of us to make it to that destination seems like too much work to be worth it! But just like my last-resort car trip yesterday, I am reminded also that even our smallest, most flawed efforts are almost always rewarded. And once we get there the things that seemed so hard about the journey pale in comparison to what we receive.