It’s Sunday morning and we barely made it to church. We came in through the door carrying a slew of bags (all having a very important purpose of course), one child missing his shoe , the eldest running in only to slam the door shut in our faces because she can not possibly remember that there are 4 other humans behind her, and lastly my middle child screaming that he doesn’t understand why he can’t bring his gigantic John Deere tractor (that makes 15 different ear shattering noises) into service with us.
You see, I am a Sunday school teacher and my husband runs the church office. We simply can’t be late. My husband is also a deacon of the church. So often I put so much pressure on myself that we must present ourselves…a normal family. Normal. What is normal anyway? During church service my husband is on the platform playing the drums so I’m always seated with our 3 children 4 rows back, drummer side. The service will begin with all the classes coming into the sanctuary, where its custom that everyone sits where they always sit. Not my youngest (he’s 2). He seems to think that he has free reign to roam, maybe even take a lap around the church causing me to chase him, and if he’s feeling really energetic and cute he’ll throw a little spice into it and run around and around the pew because he knows mommy won’t jump over the pew to get to him like she does the couch at home.
At this point in the service we have transitioned into the worship service, by far my favorite. I love lifting my hands and praising the Lord. Singing hymns, or a beautiful chorus. My 2 youngest are fighting now, I’ve convinced myself they love to do so when I’m preoccupied, especially praying. Fighting over a toy, then its a snack, then it’s because one is looking at the other. Ugh. My time at church seems to be spent mostly on popping up and down from behind our pew wrestling with toddlers or running to the bathroom with them. Finally having had enough of this craziness I stand to take my youngest by the hand to lead him out to discipline him, only to have him start screaming “No Mommy” over and over. Here I am walking down the isle (did I mention that I sit toward the front?). Alone. With a screaming toddler. I like to call it the ‘Walk of Shame’.
Sometimes when I leave a service I feel as though I left with scraps. Leftovers. Crumbs. “Why do I even bother?” I think to myself as I flop down into the car, discouraged and frustrated on the verge of tears. I sometimes can’t remember the songs we sang, the scripture or message. Between the chasing, bathrooms, and meltdowns, I’m wondering if my kids are even getting anything at all from the service that day. My worst fear is that anyone sitting behind me is being distracted by my circus and critiquing my parenting skills.
I looked up the definition of frustration: the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something. We returned to church that night for the evening service. My kids may be a circus of flying monkey’s, occasionally throwing a toy car to the front of the sanctuary during the height of the Pastor’s preaching, but they will be at church learning. Learning in-between the giggles, cries, and wiggles that worship and prayer is important. Serving the Lord with all their heart is important and its a necessity.
To the mom who is struggling with “Why do I even bother?”. It matters. Worship is one of the most valuable things we can do with our children. Did you know that we will spend approximately 650 worship services as a family from the ages 4-17? (depending how many services you typically attend weekly) These moments are irreplaceable. I want my kids to see me bow my head, raise my hands, kneel in prayer, or close my eyes as I lift my voice in song. What is rooted in the heart of a child is almost impossible to uproot in the life of an adult.
That night I knelt down to pray at my seat during the alter call. I was too exhausted to go to the front where the main alters were, where most of my brothers and sisters in Christ pray. I was frustrated and weary, so I prayed at my seat. In defeat. I began to cry. I felt a small warm hand on my shoulder as I prayed. It’s not uncommon for my church family to pray with one another, so I continued praying, never looking to see who it was. After service someone came up to me and began gushing about my middle son’s sweetness and sensitivity to the Spirit (he’s almost 6). She told me she couldn’t take her eyes off him as he prayed for me, laying his hand on me as he prayed over me. Proverbs 22:6- Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 13:22- A good [man] leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children…
I once heard a great preacher say “Our greatest mission field is our children”