On one of my favorite chick flicks, You’ve Got Mail, at one point Tom Hanks’s character asks, “Do you ever feel you become the worst version of yourself?”
Oh, boy, Joe, do I ever.
I am exhausted much of the time. I am pregnant quite a bit, too. Even on a good day, my brain has four separate threads dedicated to each one of my four-and-under children, making sure they aren’t drowning in the toilet or secretly acquiring diaper rash. If you’re lucky, my kids are elsewhere or amusing themselves happily so that I can sit down and have a nice conversation with you… more likely, though, my kids are crawling all over the place (and probably in cahoots with your kids, should you have any), and 75% of my mental powers at any given moment are completely dedicated to watching them. But even if they’re being little angels (or absent!), my brain is just not used to grown-up conversation anymore. I’ve gotten really good at repeating myself, and my memory has officially gone on vacation.
In other words: I am one of those horribly rude Mommy-people who occasionally leave off in the middle of sentence, and never return; who talk a lot about poop and throw-up, regardless of whether or not you are also a Mommy who likes to talk about such things; who struggles to talk about current events (what are they and why on earth should I even care?); who struggles to talk theology because right now I’m clinging to all my might with the nitty-gritty of the Gospel that even a five-year-old can recite… and that’s probably not what you were hoping I’d contribute to your Bible study.
In short, I think I probably come off really self-absorbed, because I probably talk a lot about myself, my family, and whatever current child-rearing adventure has reared its head, and because I have an almost complete inability at this point to actually pay attention to any kind of real, linear conversation.
I feel like I have become the worst version of myself.
At least I hope this is the worst. I’m forever plumbing new depths of how fallen I can be.
Exhaustion, in particular, has been a really profound learning experience. I can even be kind of psycho, at the end of week of stomach-bug-induced sleeplessness followed by a week of trying to restore some kind of order to our house. Or at the end of two months of relentless morning sickness surrounded by toddlers watching my every heave. I didn’t know I could be such an unreasonable person—surprise! Sleeplessness is the mirror that shows us our wretched selves.
I’ve begun to look at it like this is when I am having trouble not sinning. This is when I have trouble not being quick to anger. This is when I have trouble keeping my mouth shut. This is also when I have trouble stringing together a coherent sentence. This is when I have trouble listening sympathetically. This tiredness, this distractedness… this is making my sin real. It makes it come out to play.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:21-24 ESV)
It’s always good to be thrown helplessly into the arms of grace. I appreciate that it makes me appreciate my Savior, appreciate my own inability. It’s pretty easy to pass for a nice person when we’re refreshed and happy all the time, isn’t it? It’s hard to be a nice person when we’re grumpy and tired. It’s hard to be kind. It’s hard to be a good friend, even; it’s much harder still to be a good wife and a good mother. It’s like a pot with tiny flaws being constantly held up to the light so they can’t escape notice.
Maybe one day I won’t be tired and distracted anymore, and I’ll be able to do a better job of hiding away all these flaws that are magnified right now. In the meantime, I’ll keep struggling with them, and struggling to improve them, to “depart from iniquity” and become “useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2).
And feel free to tell me I’ve talked enough about poopy diapers for the day, and help me talk more about the things that matter. My brain might relearn old paths and I might be able to speak intelligibly again.