Not long ago a friend came to me exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to give up. She was physically, spiritually, and emotionally spent trying to balance her career with her role as a mother, wife, friend, and the kind of Christian she thought she needed to be. The kind of Christian who says yes more than no because Christianity is about sacrifice. The kind of Christian who helps everyone even if it means sacrificing those closest to her.
I knew exactly how my friend was feeling because I had been there too. If I’m honest, I still find myself there far more often than I should.
We prayed and invited Jesus into our conversation and He reminded her of a situation in her past when she felt like she was feeling that day.
My friend told me about a time when she had small children and desperately wanted to help a needy younger mother from church. She believed that it was her Christian duty to make herself and her home available to the needy mother any time she needed. The needy mother wasn’t even all that nice to my friend, but she believed Jesus would want her to be available no matter what.
One day the needy mother dropped by with her baby and said, “I have to go somewhere today. Will you watch her for me?” My friend automatically said “Yeah…sure.” Without hesitating, the needy mother handed her baby over and left.
My friend stood in her small living room surrounded by her own small children, one of which was an infant who still needed to be nursed, wondering how she was going to care for all of these children. When the infant she was babysitting started to cry, she did what any babysitter would do. She looked for a bottle to feed the hungry baby, but her needy mother hadn’t left a bottle. My friend had no way to contact the mother to let her know she had left behind a hungry baby. So she did the only thing she knew to do.
With tears streaming down her face, she held another woman’s baby up to her breast to offer the only thing she could. The baby fussed, not wanting to suck at this stranger’s breast. It wasn’t her mother, but after a few minutes of struggling, hunger and instinct latched on. Nothing about this intimate moment was comfortable. Everything inside of my friend was screaming “NO! Make it stop!”
Sometimes we say yes when everything inside is screaming “NO! Make it stop!”
As I listened to my friend struggle through tears to tell me her story, I could see how the pattern had repeated itself over and over in her life. She wanted to be able to say yes without fear and know that if she said no that she was going to be OK. She needed to know that God would love her anyway and that God would take care of the person she told no. She wondered if she could be liked and accepted without saying yes to everyone.
We cried. We prayed, and in my spirit I heard the Lord prompt me to tell her,
“You’re not the breast. I AM.”
Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I wanted to laugh because they sounded so absurd. I don’t remember ever hearing a Sunday School lesson about God being the breast. What I do remember is being told over and over about how God (El Shaddai) is all sufficient, powerful, provider, healer, peace, faithful…that He is everything we could ever want or need.
There are many references to “breasts” in the Bible. These are usually the verses that get my husband’s attention. Hey, whatever it takes. After doing some ‘Names of God’ searching, I learned that the Hebrew word “shad” (Shaddai) signifies the One who mightily nourishes, satisfies, protects, and supplies His people. Isaiah 60:16 NIV God tells His people that “they will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Isaiah 66:11-13 paints a similar picture. God is the one who sustains and comforts.
…to experience God’s sufficiency, we must realize our own insufficiency.–Nathan Stone
That day my friend needed to know it wasn’t up to her to be all sufficient. It wasn’t her job to fulfill everyone’s needs and solve their problems. My friend needed to be reminded that our God is everything we will ever need. He lacks nothing. He loves us. He’s already paid the ultimate sacrifice by sending Jesus to die for our sins. He wanted us to know that it was time to stop thinking we were the breast. We get to be part of how He provides from time to time, but it is all about Him. ALL OF THE TIME. He wants us to have the joy that comes from knowing we’re loved and that no one can take His love away from us.
This encounter with my friend was meant to encourage and strengthen her to let go of the guilt and shame she had been holding on to for so long. It was beautiful to watch Jesus set her free to love others more freely. I had no idea how it would affect me, but it has.
I’m not the breast.
It sounds silly, but saying those words (usually under my breath so my boys don’t think I’m crazier than they already do) when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders has saved me from a good crushing lately.
If this is something you’re struggling with, I pray that God will use it to free you too.