My Failed Ascetic Life

I want to be a mystic. Badly.

Ever since being introduced to my very own Coptic desert monastic mentor during seminary, I’ve had this idea that all I have to do is just find the magic combination of things that will open up that door to mystical experiences. For some stupid reason, I thought the early days of motherhood would be it.

During my first trimester I read the book by my LDS colleague, Jana ReissFlunking Sainthood. The book comically followed her experiences of trying an ascetic experience every month (e.g. fasting, praying the hours, etc.) for a year to see how her relationship with God would improve. Some things failed miserably and some things helped her feel more connected with her faith.

I remember reading this book on the train and thinking that that was the trick to this whole newborn thing. I would think of it as the ultimate ascetic/mystical experience. I mean, what is more basely human than our attachment to time and sleep?

Well….I have not met God this past month. At least not in the way that I hoped. The God in the life of a newborn is more of the dirty, roll up your sleeves and wash that poop off your face, kind of God.

If anything, this past month as been a battle with  myself.

Dust off that sexy Lutheran book, Fifty Shades of the Small Catechism. I’m about to throw out some serious Old Adam (or, old Eve, if you will) theology…

Going into this whole mom thing, you are constantly warned about everything you’re going to lose or miss once you have a child. And…yes…I guess that’s correct, but I think it goes deeper. The person that everyone ominously warns you about missing, for me, is a person that I shouldn’t be in the first place. The Eve that I have to battle every day is selfish and needy. She is incredibly vain and wants to buy all the things.

I have found this first month to be a reflection of what I imagined the early church converts had to go through: You go through this amazing, transforming experience. You’re totally in. You are ready to change your life and do everything possible for this new lifestyle. You drown yourself in the love and information and you have a convert’s zeal.

But then some time passes and you have bad days. Days where this new lifestyle sucks and you just want to watch Game of Thrones in peace.

This has been my struggle. Every day seems to be an experience of death and rebirth. Of falling in love again not only with this new life, but with myself. My new self. The self that opens herself up completely and totally to another human being and gives that being everything. Everything. And expects nothing in return.

I know that this time period in the mothering process isn’t forever. I know that I will get more and more time to myself, but I’m on the other side now. In spite of my old self’s best attempts, I can’t go back. She – as a whole and complete person – is forever gone.


In My Sights This Week (Things I Read & Watched):

*A Baptist feminist woman responds to the mishandling of sexual abuse accusations against Baylor

*A Christian musician heartbreakingly comes out in a letter to his fans

*My friend, Angela, writes a letter to a mother who has a baby suffering from Zika

*I need to start living like the Danish

*Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” is amazing. I haven’t seen all of them, but I found the stories of Alex Atala, Ana Ros, and René Redzepi especially fascinating. I love the idea that claiming your heritage and taking care of the land has brought success and reversed some damage to the earth.

*”70 Acres in Chicago” a documentary on Cabrini Green. It seemed one-sided, but I appreciated that for once the side was on those hurt by displacement and it wasn’t about dehumanizing them and painting the community in the light of violence.

*VICE’s recent episode with Edward Snowden has me a little freaked about our privacy from our government. The question that has haunted me since the episode is, “You may somewhat trust your government now, but what about the government 8 years from now? 20? How can you be sure they won’t flip the switch on you?” This made me think of Trump…