There is a place in the night that is later than the late shows. It is way more night than Nick at Night. It is deeper into the darkness than infomercials. Here in this deep dark night live reruns of the original Batman Series. With my velvet blue recliner leaned back as far as it could go, my legs crossed, and my hand comfortably placed under the rubber band of my britches I spent many college nights watching Adam West defeat Gotham’s villains (and sharks). Only 6 years ago I was a night owl and was certain I would stay that way.
Last night I went to bed at 8:45pm.
This stark contrast is due to the rhythms that my wife and I are committed to. We once read that you will be more in love and have more sex (can the two be separated in marriage?) if you don’t have a TV in your room and go to bed at the same time. We keep these rules. So when my wife became pregnant (proof of the success of sticking to the rules) our bedtime crept to pre-nightly news territory.
Taryn falls asleep around 9pm every night. Whether people are over or she is reading a book she “rests her eyes” for just a moment. Then a sound will startle her and she will wake up and say “I don’t know why I am so tired?”
In the early months of pregnancy I would giggle at this statement and lift her off of the couch and in the direction of bed. After months of this routine I now lovingly respond, “Why are you so tired? Perhaps it is that human inside of you stealing all of the nutrients from the food you consume! Maybe it is the twenty-pound bag of groceries that you carry around while you work an eight hour day! Perhaps your body is suggesting that you slow down and nurture the additional human your designed-for-one faculties are supporting!” Yet even with this very kind and rational response every night Taryn flutters her eyes open and groggily asks “why do you think I am so tired?”
Her nightly confusion has me reflecting on the work of nurturing. Most of us don’t know what it means to nurture anything (remember that herb garden you planted and killed?) and if we do we rarely prioritize that work. Instead we prioritize winning, accomplishing, and defeating. There are races to be won, companies to start, and deals to seal. We think that striving is the real work. We think that the things beyond us that we go out and get will give life its significance.
I was in that frame of mind when I left my job last October. From the day that I resigned I began searching job websites like I was looking for my missing child. I was certain that the job that I would find would be what I needed to quiet my vocational angst. In all of my clicking and scrolling I found nothing. It was this powerlessness (and my friends and family) that drove me to focus more on nurturing what was already inside of me. They all said that if I spent time in silence, asked good questions, and pursued the things that my heart cares about that I would find the richness I desired. For four months I did just that. The results? I sent in only one resume (to Pixar–I just had to try) and oddly received 6 different job offers.
Maybe it’s not that easy (THE work was certainly not easy for me) and the above story feels trite. But what if we really do have everything we need? There is a verse in the Christian scriptures that says God has given us everything that we need to live a full and righteous life. But we don’t often believe that. We have instincts (that are fueled by the U.S’s culture of dominance) that tell us to defeat, conquer, win, and accomplish a full life and that the ends always justify the means. That is a narrative of scarcity based on finding joy through acquisition. In that story we end up with whatever we can get for ourselves and this promotes anxiety, greed, competition, and violence.
So what if there was a different way?
What if we have everything we need to be content? What if we have everything we need to get that company started? What if we have everything we need to improve our relationships at work? What if we have everything we need to improve our living situation? What if we have everything we need to make that difficult decision? What if our churches have everything they need to love our neighbors? What if we have everything we need within us to overcome our addictions and fears? If we have everything that we need then the work is not to stay up until Batman Hours working, winning, and scheming…the work is to nurture what is inside of you. It is to feed, educate, and train what is already there.
No book, class, vitamin or doula is going to make my son healthier (in fact, the anxiety that is created by the culture of such things may do more harm than good) than if his mama goes to bed when she feels like it. She is not lazy and denying the work required to be a good mother. Rather she understands that she has been given everything that she needs and the real hard work is to nurture what is already within her.