Well, it’s official. I now look “pregnant” instead of fat. I now have strangers coming up to me at Panera Bread, asking when I’m due, without even a hint of uncertainty in their voice. It’s comforting, in a way.
But there are moments where I really have to fight off panic, I’ll be honest. This is a baby. We are going to be parents. I’d like the words, “responsible” and “loving” to be included as adjectives for that job description, but there are days when I’m really not sure. Usually, this doubt is pure emotion– there is no reason for it. In Orthodoxy, we have a term for the demons that haunt us in this manner, the “logos moi”. They are the demons that constantly feed us our doubts, like gnats swarming around our faces. It’s our choice to sin by dwelling on those doubts, letting them take root and fester within us, to the point where we are actually made to believe that these wicked thoughts came from us. Now, there are legitimate evil thoughts that we should take responsibility for, as we are still in the process of being made a “new creation”. But the minute we take ownership of external things, conveniently provided by these demons, we perpetuate the self deprecation already occurring, sending us into a spiral of self-doubt and hatred.
These demons clearly know that my weakness is going to be panic and self-doubt about the type of parents Jesse and are going to be. The moment I choose to dwell on this, the despair comes quick and easy. Thoughts like, “we are never going to pay off our school loans” and “we will always be living month to month” become less like thoughts and more like the booming bass line at a rock concert. I start picturing myself as a tired disheveled mother wearing bleached out cotton t-shirts to the grocery store, baby on one hip and another bawling next to the shopping cart, while the clerk impatiently tells me that my debit card has been declined. Yup, my “logos moi” are Blockbuster Movie vivid.
So, it’s essential for me to identify those thoughts that come from nowhere, and denounce them for what they are. The moment one of these thoughts pops into my head (like today, when we found out it’s going to take another $500 to register Jesse’s car!), I have to immediately dismiss it, treating it like a caustic chemical that must immediately be washed from the skin. I patiently tell myself, “The money is there. God is just taking away some of our ‘buffer’ money to keep us faithful and diligent about our budget. He’s teaching us good habits. Do not worry.” I remind myself that both Jesse and I have great dependable jobs, which is more than most Americans can say at this point. We don’t have to worry about the economy, because we have nothing invested in it– not even a mortgage payment! We could get up and leave tomorrow, if we had to. God has allowed us to avoid plenty of worry and stress, simply because we have never had too much to begin with. The less you have, the less you are afraid of losing it. I wonder if this was what Jesus was referring to when he said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Could we give up everything, tomorrow, if we were asked? From the way people are stressing out about the economy, I really wonder if they could.
And then I remind myself of the most important thing concerning parenting–God has made me a mother, long before this baby was even conceived. He put it into my DNA, wove the desire for motherhood into my heart, long before I was even married. That desire has been manifesting itself for 3 years now. Granted, we haven’t been “trying” for a baby that entire time, but the desire to be a mom was so strong at times, I would cry myself to sleep. God has made me a Mom, not because I am a “woman” but because I am “Kelly”. To ignore that calling for earthly wealth or for a career would be just like Jonah, running from God in a ship.
It is crucial to remind myself of this whenever I start to panic, thinking, “AHHH!! We should have waited until we were financially stable!” We will always be striving for financial stability, not in order to accumulate earthly wealth which will encumber us, but to be responsible stewards and parents. I don’t want more money so that we can retire in luxury, I want more money so I can make sure that my children attend wonderful schools and colleges. I don’t want to live in a nice neighborhood so that I can invite people over and show them how “together” we are, I want a nice yard that my kids can run around in safety, without worry of crime or busy streets. I don’t want plenty of money in the bank so I can pat myself on the back, but so that we can be tithing more than our 10% each week at church.
So, in order to combat these “demons” that seem to be flying around in hoards these days, I’ve found that it’s essential to clearly define those things that are most precious to me, and only worry when life’s circumstances threaten those. As Jesse and I did our evening prayers together last night, I realized that the Orthodox church had this in mind when they formulated the words that a family should be saying each night. Don’t get me wrong– spontaneous prayer from the heart can also be a good thing. But shouldn’t prayers teach us something as well? Shouldn’t our conversations with God re-direct our focus, away from ourselves and towards those things that Heaven cares about? How often do we do this “naturally”? This is the response I would give to someone who finds pre-formulated prayers to be “dis-ingenuine” or “dry”. Doing the right thing, thinking about the right thing, is not always going to be happy and emotional. But it is going to train my heart away from the distracting thoughts of the world.
Here is an excerpt from my favorite part of the evening prayers:
Thou who, at all times, and at every hour, both in Heaven and on earth, art worshiped and glorified, 0 Christ our God, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy and compassion; Who lovest the just and showest mercy to those who are hardened in sin; Who callest all men to salvation through the promise of good things to come:
Do Thou, the same Lord, receive also our supplications at this present time, and direct our lives according to Thy commandments. Sanctify our souls; purify our bodies; set aright our minds; cleanse our thoughts; and deliver us from all calamity, wrath and distress. Compass us round about with Thy Holy Angels; that, guided and guarded by their host, we may attain unto the unity of the faith, and unto the comprehension of Thine ineffable glory. For blessed art Thou unto the Ages of Ages.