As a mother of a toddler I am rarely alone. I can’t even go to the restroom alone when my daughter is around. She has finally reached the age where I can leave the room until I hear a scream, cry or thump, but other than that we are usually together.
Thanks be to God for daycare, or I would literally never be without her. Even when others are around to watch her, when I am nearby she wants her mommy. This is the blessing and curse of toddler motherhood. The blessing and curse of always being wanted and needed.
The flip side of never being alone is the loneliness I feel as a mother. Those late nights when Scarlet wakes up because her allergies are so bad she can’t sleep and we find ourselves rocking in the recliner in a dark house and there are not even cars passing by on the road. I can’t imagine the loneliness mothers felt at those times before Facebook. At least in my loneliness I can scroll through the lives of others who have gone to rest for the night.
Then there is the loneliness a mother feels after sitting on the bathroom floor for 40 minutes waiting for pee-pee in the potty to happen. The loneliness of wrangling a toddler in Walmart while shopping with a list that is way too long to accomplish alone. As a mother, even though I am rarely alone, I often feel the weight of loneliness. I often feel like I am mothering, parenting, and surviving all on my own.
As a minister I am rarely alone. I am an extrovert and my ministry style is very relational, so I spend a lot of time with others. As a youth and children’s minister, I am always surrounded by people and voices. I can always find myself in a conversation, some simple and some so serious and scary I only survive by the grace of God.
As a minister my door, heart and head are always open to others. I am usually with at least one person in my office or surrounded by 10s or 100s in Bible study and events. As a minister I am called to make disciples; this requires being with people. And even when I am not surrounded by the people of my ministry, I am surrounded by their burdens and prayer requests. I am rarely alone with my own discipleship, burdens, and prayers.
On the other hand, while my ministry requires me to be with people for most of the time, I continue to feel alone. Ministers hear and know some of the darkest secrets of people’s lives. We are often entrusted with stories that are hard to hear and hard to bear. Because of this, we often have to keep these stories to ourselves and God, leaving us very few places to release.
As a minister, I do spend time in my own Bible study and prayer time with God. These times often lead me to places and decisions that are not easy and often against the traditions of the church and sometimes I feel like I fight the battle of servanthood, discipleship, and just being Jesus in the world alone.
As a mother and minister I am often caught in this weird place. A place where I am rarely alone, but often feel so lonely. Please don’t think I am literally alone. I have an amazing husband and partner in ministry, parenthood and life. He does his share of parenting and household chores. And as the senior pastor of the church I serve, he is a constant support of the ministry God has called me to.
I am also surrounded by loving family, friends, and church family. I rarely pay for a baby sitter, when I actually ask for one. I would not have made it this far in ministry and parenthood without the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me on a daily basis. However, even surrounded by this great cloud, I often feel like I am in a fog.
I often wonder what Mary, the mother of Jesus really felt upon giving birth to Jesus. Did she feel the loneliness of rarely being alone? She was an outcast in society, but also never away from the presence of God, literally in her womb. We know she had a friend in Elizabeth, but could Elizabeth really relate?
When Jesus was born, there may have been stable animals around and even shepherds came to visit. It seems like Joseph never left her side. But did she ever feel alone? Did she feel alone in the burden and blessing of raising the Messiah? My answer to many of these questions was found as I read Mary’s song in Luke.
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” – Luke 1:46-49
Hearing Mary’s humble offering of song, a crying out to God, I find myself amazed by her humility and hope. I am reminded of the great things the Mighty One has done for me. I am reminded of the mindfulness God has shown in giving me two of the greatest honors and responsibilities a person can have: parenthood and ministry. I am humbled that God has blessed me with joy from the womb, a joy that not all women have the opportunity to experience. I am humbled that God has called me to help point and guide his people back to him. I am humbled by the legacy that my parenting and ministry will leave.
Granted, this reflection does not make the loneliness of rarely being alone magically go away. But it does give me hope. It does make me reflect on the greater purpose of my life. It does make me understand the humility that is required to be a mother and minister. As a mother and minister I understand just a small portion of what it means to put others before myself. I can’t imagine the feeling of putting the all of humankind before my own child.
As a mother and minister I will rarely be alone. As a mother I will often feel alone. However, as a child of God I will never be without the God who made me, loves me, provides for me, guides me, protects me, and keeps me – holy is his name.
Rev. Sarah Boberg is the Minister of Youth and Children at First Baptist Church in Red Springs were she serves alongside her husband, Rev. Bradley Boberg. She is the mother of the beautiful and energetic Scarlet Carolyne and spends her “free” time working on her Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a concentration in Cultural Studies from UNCG.