I have been a Christian all of my life, and since around eighth grade, regular (not to be confused with daily) individual study of the scripture has been a part of my faith. Recently my neighbor and I were discussing how our prayer and Bible study habits have changed since we became mothers.
At times in my life, I practiced waking early to pray and read scripture before beginning my day or dedicating time for that before crawling into bed. Now my only morning prayer goes something like this, "God, please let that not be Hobbes waking up already" (followed by the cries of "Mama! Mama!" from the crib). If I sit down to try to pray in the evening, I usually end up asleep in my chair. I remember spending copious amounts of time in corporate and individual prayer in college, praying for people I knew, for issues of injustice, for God's kingdom to be made manifest in the world. Now I spend copious amounts of time folding laundry and screaming at my kids while shooting up sentence prayers for patience or just one day without a tantrum. I'm pretty sure that if I weren't in a women's Bible study through my church the pages of my Bible would rarely see daylight.
My neighbor said that her spiritual life seems to have taken a similar downturn, and we were discussing what it would mean to find a rhythm for prayer and study that fit the constant demands of mothering little ones. My Bible study and prayer usually happen in the 15 minutes a few times a week that I force myself to sit down during naptime and do something other than read blogs. My neighbor suggested that she always reads her devotional and prays with her son while they eat breakfast, and that gave me pause.
Do my children ever see me studying scripture or praying? We do have family prayer, a hymn, and a Bible story most nights before bedtime. But other than that and prayers before meals, do the boys know that their mommy thinks learning to pray and read the Bible for oneself are important?
So I experimented today. I decided to do my reading for my women's Bible study while my kids were playing outside. Calvin was running around the yard with his golf clubs, and Hobbes was contentedly playing in the sandbox. That should have bought me at least 20 minutes. I pulled out my Bible, notebook, and pen and got to work...
"Mama, mama, mama" (two sandy hands run up to show me seashells that were buried in the sandbox, spilling sand all over my Bible...)
I admire the shells and gently place Hobbes back in the sandbox. Back to reading.
"eh, eh, eh" (same two hands grab for my pen and throw a fit when they aren't allowed to write in my notebook...)
Hobbes is once more escorted back to the sand. Okay, back to work.
"Ahhhhhh! Mommy, Hobbes is taking the car. I need to drive to the golf course" (thirty minutes, a time out, several screaming fits, and two icees later...)
Back to the Bible study. Check the clock. It's time for Mr. Rogers and lunch, and I am only halfway through today's reading. Sticky, sandy hands pull me inside.
I'm not sure what I learned from this, but I think it was a success. You see, my children did notice that I was reading the Bible. (Well, Calvin knew what I was doing; Hobbes knew I had a pen and paper.) I stopped when they needed help or attention, but I went back. Calvin is old enough to ask what I am reading and for us to have some brief conversation about it. Hobbes is at least getting used to seeing his mom with a Bible in her hands. While I am sure that some time for prayer and reflection that isn't interrupted by children is important, I can't help but think that this is more important. When my boys are grown up, I want them to look back and know that their mom loved being in the Word and that they were welcome to join her there, sticky, sandy hands and all.