What Does the Lord Require of You?

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Q_NicoleJ

My theological studies brought a question into my life that has subsequently guided my footsteps, influencing and shaping my decisions around vocation and living, in general, for the last seven years. It is a question found in two passages in the Old Testament, once in Deuteronomy and once in Micah.  This question, on both occasions, came at a time of transition for God’s people.

The old, rebellious generation, who did not trust God and were forbidden to enter the promised land, had passed away. Now the new generation stood poised on the plains of Moab, awaiting the signal from God and Joshua, to cross the Jordan, and claim their inheritance, the land of milk and honey, a land free from slavery, a land provided by their God who faithfully provided for them in the wilderness. Deuteronomy is Moses’ last swan song as their leader, his last words to them to prepare their hearts for what awaited them. In this context, Moses admonishes them,

“So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God …” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, NRSV)

The second occurrence of this passage came before Judah’s demise at the hands of Babylonia, with Micah calling Judah to repent and turn back to God’s ways, warning them of impending destruction if they continue on their chosen path. As with Moses, Micah invites Judah to remember their core identity, their identity as God’s people, image bearers who are to reflect God in the world. Micah reminds them,

“… and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly before your God?” (Micah 6:8, NRSV)

This question has demanded all of me, and it is one to which I sometimes willingly, other times unwillingly, submitted. The question is accompanied by an answer, and the exciting aspect, for me, of this question and its answers has been figuring out what that means in my contemporary context, and the spaces, places and extraordinary people to which this question, and my exploration thereof, has led me.

Exploring this question, combined with my studies, changed my understanding of God from one who was solely interested in how many souls I led to the Lord, how many hours I prayed and read my Bible, how faithful I was in doing my quiet times early in the morning, etc. I learned that God cares deeply about this world; God is constantly working towards the healing and transformation of this world; God invites us to participate in God’s work towards healing and wholeness, towards shalom.

In my final year, my research essay traced the theme of God’s heart for the vulnerable in society, and this is when I first reflected intently upon Deuteronomy 10:12-21 and James 1:27, passages that highlight God’s heart for widows, orphans and foreigners, learning how these categories represented the vulnerable in society. My research affirmed an understanding of God who hungered for, and worked towards, justice, shalom, God’s kingdom on this earth “as it is in heaven”, and as God’s image bearers in the work, God’s people are to hunger after, and work towards, justice and shalom as well.

This question caused me to read Scripture anew, and I became compelled to share this new way of reading Scripture and these new lenses of understanding God with others. This compulsion led me to explore the vocation of a teacher, specifically in the field of biblical studies.

I engaged in conversations that broadened and deepened this understanding of God. My eyes were opened to people who actively engaged in working alongside God in bringing about healing and wholeness in various sectors of society all over the world. I read, learned and taught about God’s vision for economics, a vision that runs from Genesis to Revelation, which inspired my husband and I to invite God into how we manage our finances.

I engaged in as many spaces, and with as many people and organisations, as possible to learn and live in ways that brought about transformation and healing in my country. This journey led to Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to listen and learn and observe God’s work in the world. It led me to The Warehouse, an organisation whose members embody, in so many different ways, this hope of healing for South Africa. It was this journey that also connected me with Idelette, SheLoves Magazine, and the global sisterhood gathered by this magazine.

And then I became a mother, and, to my dismay, all the passion connected to this question disappeared. I still believe the question to be vitally important, but I am just not feeling it anymore. You get me? There is nothing. No energy to engage, to read further, to learn more. I cannot bring myself to read relevant articles or posts that come up in my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I cannot concentrate on anything related to this passion for an extended length of time since becoming a momma.

This scares the living daylights out of me, because this question helped guide my whole life—my vocation, career, marriage, relationships, finances, etc. What I can say is that another question has come to the fore, one that seems to dominate my conscious and unconscious space, and is able to dictate my actions for most of my days. The question that now guides my life is, “What does my daughter need?”  

My days are filled with feeding her, keeping her entertained or occupied, watching that she is safe even when she is keeping herself entertained or occupied, cooking, doing laundry, packing away clean laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, tidying the house, and repeating this all in the days that follow.

Even when her aunts or grandmothers are babysitting her, or she is with her dad, I’m either running errands or trying to do things that feed me, and this does not, at the moment, include reading about, and/or engaging in activities around, God, faith, justice and shalom.

Not too long ago, Courtney E. Martin blogged about how motherhood “obliterated” her old identity. She writes, “I have been broken down by motherhood in a profound, sometimes dark and lonely way. I have had to confront my own physical and emotional limits … My psychic, physical, spiritual boundaries got obliterated … I mourn the old life …”

Obliterated …  It is such a strong word. But this word describes so well what I am feeling about my identity. I feel like the old me has been shattered by becoming a mother. I miss my old life. I miss the old me, the “me” who passionately spoke about God and justice and the Bible that shapes this understanding, and about the church embodying this message of God’s justice and shalom in multifaceted ways, and then figuring out, and living into, this understanding of God and faith and life.

But it has disappeared, and I’m desperately hoping it’s just gone dormant for now while my little one needs me every hour of every day. And I am grieving this loss deeply. There is an underlying sadness all the time that I just cannot seem to shake.

I feel lost, as if I have lost who I am, the Nicole I used to be before I became a mother. I do not regret any minute of being baby girl’s momma, but I miss the old me, and yearn for the day when the question that shapes my days is not all about her, and is in some way about what God requires of me. I do not doubt that raising my daughter is part of God’s work, but I yearn again for something that I can call my own. And I hope that that day is not too far away.

So, SheLovelys, I would really appreciate hearing your stories of how motherhood has shaped you and what your life looks like now.

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