Elbow Deep in Poo

Two words. Potty training. Ugh. I hold the record as the worst potty trainer. I’ve obediently read the books and blogs that promise potty training can happen in a few  days, hours, seconds, whatever. I’ve tried all the tricks. We’ve done sticker charts and M&Ms. I’ve pleaded, bribed and threatened, all to no avail. What I have found is that at some point, my three oldest children started using the potty. I am currently facing the fourth and final round of potty training and I admit I am no better now than I was with the first toddler seven years ago. In fact, I may actually have gotten worse.

My almost 3-year-old and I took a stab at using the potty two weeks ago and I was encouraged. She spent the whole morning in her big girl undies with no accidents. She didn’t throw any fits when I stopped her mid-playtime for potty breaks. I started to naively think, “Hey, maybe this one will be easy.” Then we had to leave the house. Yes, I know that when one is potty training it is best to hunker down and avoid society for several days. But when one has three other children involved in activities and a husband out of town…my timing was really terrible now that I think about it.

I did have enough sense to put a diaper on her for her gymnastics class that evening, but not enough sense left over to refill the diaper bag. I wasn’t worried. We would be there an hour and half and I figured that one diaper would hold up. Well, it didn’t. With no warning whatsoever, she began having massive diarrhea (is there such a thing as non-massive diarrhea?). I cleaned up the first bout and thought, “Whew! I’m so glad that’s out of the way.” However, 15 minutes later came a second wave. And a third minutes after that.  I had zero diapers for her. Wipes were in the car. The gymnastics facility does not supply paper towels. My shirt absorbed some of it as I carried her to the bathroom to wipe up what I could with flimsy two-ply toilet paper. I had no change of clothes for her so she sat on her cream colored jacket for the car ride home. We rolled down the windows and held our noses, gagging from the smell all the way home. The jacket was ruined by the time we arrived. Why do they even make cream-colored toddler clothing? That’s not even a little bit practical. Sigh…like I said. Worst. Potty trainer. Ever.

I tried really hard that night to find some sort of spiritual insight from this experience. Surely something about sin having control over us and ruining all of our jackets…no, that’s not it. Sigh again.

Really what I felt that night was the need for solidarity. I needed conversation with someone else who understood the struggle of motherhood. Someone else to say, “Yes, I hate potty training too.” I didn’t need a 3-step potty training program, or another book with tricks and tips. I just needed a friend who wouldn’t criticize my failure to prepare for our outing. I needed a friend who would cringe with understanding. Someone who has been up to her elbows in stinky poo, too. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.

By God’s grace, I had a friend that night who understood. I texted her my dramatic potty story and she responded with the appropriate emoticon faces, shared her most recent potty escapade and confessed her own lack of preparedness. In that moment, I felt less alone. I felt a little less overwhelmed.

If there is one thing I hear most from other moms, it is their need for friendship and community. Whether she is a mom who is home with kids all day, or one who is working hard at a job outside the home in addition to raising babies, the need remains the same. Yes, we love our children. Yes, we have wonderful, joy-filled moments of playing, talking and laughing with them. But, there is still a need for adult conversation and community. To talk to someone who has a little more understanding of life and a more robust vocabulary.

I believe this is an intentional design by God. He created us for community and relationship. It is a need He instilled in us so that we would seek out others. We are created in the Triune image of God. He is in perfect community with Himself, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. And so we are created for community. And God has provided this community within the body of His people - the Church, pointing us back to our greatest need, communion with the God of all creation.

The problem is, that we have a tendency to hide. We hide for lots of reasons.

We hide because it’s easier than being transparent and available. It’s more comfortable to stay in and pretend that social media community is able to meet our needs for connection. And it certainly does give that illusion - until you venture to have a face-to-face conversation with a real person. Then suddenly, status updates appear a little more shallow.

It feels safer to hide. If we never make ourselves vulnerable, then no one will know about all the ways we are failing. No one will know how hurt we are. They won’t know how unhappy our marriages are. They won’t know how angry we are with the way life has turned out. They won’t know we are depressed. They won’t know about our dirty houses, or our dirty thoughts.

Proverbs 18:1 warns us specifically about hiding when it says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” When we hide and isolate ourselves, we are endangering our souls. God has intentionally created us with a desire for friendship for many reasons, one of the most important being accountability. When we allow others into the realness of our messy lives, we create a space for them to have the freedom to be real too. We all need to have people who can call us out when we are being foolish or straight up sinful. A true friend will tell you when you are flirting with danger.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says it this way, “Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

So here is something to consider today. Who will lift you up when you fall? Who do you know will understand your poop texts? Who cares enough about you to call you out, even if it means they will risk your anger? Thank God for that person right now! And maybe give her a call, or grab some coffee together and tell her thank you.

Perhaps there was no one who came to mind just now. If that is the case then consider this. Are you willing to be real with others? If not, why? What are you afraid will happen if others really know you? What are you hiding behind? Is the loneliness worth the safety?

Perhaps no one came to mind because there really is no one. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new city and have no connections. Maybe you’ve reached out and have been rejected or ignored. Perhaps you are a single mom bearing the burden of both roles, and there is just no time for friendship. Know today that you are loved! Know that none of us are ever alone! God, Himself, is a friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Lean into Him during this lonely season and trust that He will provide for ALL of your needs, including your need for friendship and community.

My prayer for all of you today is that you will see where God has provided friendship for you and where He is calling you to be a friend to another. May you find space for swapping potty stories, laughing (or crying if need be) at the absurdity motherhood sometimes brings, and find your heart full of the joy of friendship.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” John 15:12-17 ESV