When I had my first (of three) kids, I knew babies were difficult, they cry a lot, and they don’t sleep. I had been babysitting since I was a teenager, and I worked in children’s ministry at my church. I knew how to change diapers, how to feed a kid, how to keep them entertained. I took a baby class at the hospital, so I knew how to swaddle, how to soothe, and how to nurse. They told me to be prepared for being extra emotional, and tired from the baby waking every few hours to eat.
I could never have been prepared for feeling completely out of my element for the first three months of her life. They did not tell me that my daughter would cry unless I was nursing her, or bouncing her, or unless she was asleep (which was not often). I did not know that the crying would feel excruciating to me, like I was a failure, like I was doing everything wrong, and like it would never end. If my daughter was crying, then I usually was, too. It all felt so out of control, and like it would never end.
I had friends telling me it was okay, and it would get better. And I knew that, due to the laws of time, this was probably true. In the middle of the night, bouncing on an exercise ball with my daughter staring up at me nowhere near sleep, I could not believe it was true. When my daughter was up every two hours to eat, and took one hour to get back to sleep, and my anxiety kept me up most of in between, I knew it would never end. I didn’t think I’d ever sleep again, and I thought I was the worst mother in the world because she would not stop crying. Years later, when a friend was having a rough go of it, I stumbled across this verse, and it literally had me in tears.
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” Isaiah 40:11
Some versions even said “nursing mother.” I was floored. The Lord, years ago, knew that we’d be drowning in motherhood, and knew that we would need to hear that he’s got it; he’s got it all. Nestled in verses in Isaiah about the Lords power, about the Lords providence for his people, his guidance and direction for them, he did not forget about me. He did not forget about you.
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd.” My basic needs will be met. When we choose to follow the Lord, we are his. “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 Literally everything is taken care of, we will want nothing. We don’t need to worry about sleep, about sustenance, about safety: we are a part of his flock, and we will want nothing.
“He will carry the lamb in his arms, holding them close to his heart.” I could hear this every day and never grow tired of the comfort it brings. I am not wholly in charge of carrying my three children through life. The Lord has given them to me, he has chosen me to take care of them, but the buck doesn’t stop with me. When I make mistakes, when my exhaustion clouds my judgment, when I yell at my kids, or when I can’t make them happy. When I just can’t carry them any longer, he will carry them. And even better, he will hold them close to his heart. His perfect, loving, caring, all-knowing heart.
When a mother sheep has a lamb, the flock still goes on. The shepherd still must lead his flock to greener pastures for sustenance, and keep them from predators. The mother sheep is torn between keeping up with the flock, and also taking care of her baby. The shepherd knows his mother sheep, and feels the turmoil within her. He can either leave the lamb behind, or he can pick up the lamb to lighten the load of the mother, and keep her with her flock.
This is what the Lord does for us. Life goes on. We have to go on, but sometimes it’s too much and we see everyone moving forward without us. We can’t carry our children on our own, so he picks up our precious babies, holding them close to his heart, and carries them when we cannot. We get to stay with our people, keep up with our lives, and also have the most loving, caring God take care of our babies.
“He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” I have always known that God can guide us in our decision-making, but parenting is so daily, tedious, and monotonous. It’s deciding what my kids eat for breakfast, whether to fight with them about wearing sandals in winter, if I should go to the park or the library, if my kid should do swim lessons, or gymnastics. It seems trivial, and at the same time so, so important to the future of my children. And how can the Bible possibly inform me on whether or not my three-year old is eating enough vegetables? But he cares, and he is gently leading us all day, every day. He cares what my kids do, where my kids go, and what they’re eating, and he will gently lead me in all of these decisions. If we listen, if we dig in, if we follow the Lords prompting in our hearts, our kids will be fine.
Our children will be fine because the Lord is carrying them close to his heart, and gently leading us in our parenting.