I was recently talking to a mom of little ones who was feeling guilty that she wasn't spending more time in the Word. She gets up three to five times a night with her young kids and can't seem to get out of bed in the mornings before they wake up. (What mother of little ones can't relate?). She knows Scripture reading is important and desires it, but she doesn't know how to read the Bible in this season of life.
Oh, I remember these days well. My kids are only slightly older now, but I have the luxury of sleeping through the night. I can get up before my kids, drink a cup of coffee and read the Bible before they wake up. But this wasn't always the case. In fact, another title for this post could be, "How to Pray When You Fall Asleep Every Time You Blink." My name would have been at the top of the list for that one.
When I look back on our newborn stage, I remember the days full of exhaustion and joy. I remember when I would close my eyes and immediately fall asleep. The days when someone was always touching me: to eat, to be changed, to cuddle. The days when "mommy brain" was not something I smirked at with amnesic nostalgia: it was my life. And in the same breath, I also remember the sweet baby snuggles, the smell of clean hair after bath time, and how my heart thought it would explode the first time they smiled. My joy would expand each day exponentially beyond anything I had ever known. But the same glaring problem remained.
How do you study God's word when you're sleep-deprived, covered in baby spit, and a little hormonal? When you're running on empty, and haven't showered in days?
Often as women, if we don't think we can do something perfectly, we don't want to do it at all. If we fall out of rhythm with our morning devotionals, for example, we might as well throw it in the trash. After all, that didn't work! But if reading God's word is valuable to us, then it's worth doing throughout all the seasons of life, even the newborn stage, and even if it looks different than when we didn't have children. As a mentor once told me, "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing poorly."
Here are a few reflections on our season of early motherhood and Bible reading:
1) Prioritize it. When my kids were napping, I often felt the need to do "all the things": laundry, clean the bottles, rest. But the truth is, early motherhood contains a never-ending list of "to-dos." If I waited to read the Bible when I had the trifecta of energy + desire + free time, it would have never happened. I have to do it first. Prioritizing time in the Word, even if only for a minute, helps me fix my mind on the things of the Lord throughout the day. Pray for God to help you make this priority, and enlist friends to keep you accountable.
2) Put the phone down. It's amazing how much Facebook, Instagram or Netflix we can consume even when we have "no time." Put the phone down while nursing and spend some time in the Word instead. It's addictively easy to go to the phone for instant "retreat", but often after doing this, we feel more numb and tired than when we started. When we're drained, it's easy to try to do things on our own or to disconnect with a quick technology booster, but that's when we need Christ's power all the more. Psalm 62:5 says, "Yes, my soul finds rest in God alone; my hope comes from him." He is our Sabbath rest, our strength and our support. Let us find our rest in Him.
3) Use an audio Bible. If the words of the Bible seem to blur as you read due to sleep deprivation, then have someone read it to you via an audio Bible! The beauty of this hands-free option is that you can listen while cleaning bottles, nursing babies, or resting. Often I'd also read the Bible out loud to help me focus or journal my prayers so that they didn't get muddled in my sleepy mind. If you have other helpful resources, be sure to post them in the comments for other mamas to hear!
4) Give yourself grace. Some seasons are rich with deep study of God's word. Other seasons are more cursory. Maybe you're not in a stage where you can read three uninterrupted chapters of the Bible each day – you can't even shower by yourself! But you can read a verse, write it on your mirror, and meditate on it throughout the day. In Matthew 4, Jesus reminds us that we don't live by bread alone (or by naps alone), but by every word of God. His Word was not given to be a burden to us, but a delight. It is our substance, our anchor. Christ does not intend to weigh us down with another "to-do." He longs to give us life as we follow Him. And still, God sees our struggles. He knows that we are quick to forget Him, and how often we try to do things on our own. He knows that we are more likely to binge on social media than on his Word. Even then, His grace abounds. His Word and his grace bring us back home when we otherwise would go astray.
So for the mama who is deep in dirty diapers, milk, and spit-up, you're not alone. This season will pass. As they say, the days are long but the years are short. You will sleep again, and get (most) of your brain back. God is not less pleased with you because you can't spend hours of uninterrupted time in the Word. He does not condemn you for being tired and weary. Rather he invites you into Himself. As you seek to spend time in God's Word, keep at it. Everything that is worth doing is worth doing poorly.