It’s tough to miss my family at church. Obscurity is not our thing.
Our group of six easily takes up an entire pew. Four blond daughters, plus my husband, the huge diaper bag, a pile of coats in the winter, and myself. We tend to sprawl out into the aisle. I remarked one weekend that we don’t appear very hospitable by taking up so much space, but I’m sure no one would want to sit with us anyway.
And if our square footage alone weren’t enough to draw attention, the sibling squabbles do it for sure. They fight over who sits on my lap, who walks up first for communion, which one gets the “cool” busy bag, and who gets to put the money in the offering plate. We have instructed them that they have to be quiet during the service, so all the folks around us hear is a continued hiss and the occasional elbow thrown.
Any holy space always brings out the best in my children.
And all that’s once we’re actually at the church. Getting ready presents a challenge even more difficult than keeping everyone quiet once we arrive. Sisters argue over dresses and toddlers spill milk on their Mary Jane’s and we discover that we forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, again. In a world where we already feel over-scheduled and over-committed, getting our tribe out the door on Sunday morning does not exactly allow us to honor the Sabbath.
One Sunday when my youngest was still pretty small, we hustled to get everyone out the door and my oldest claimed malaise once we pulled into the parking lot. I didn’t even stop to think if she was telling the truth (she wasn’t). I looked at my weary husband and asked, “Is this really the best idea? Why are we pushing so hard to make this happen?”
There was a question lying under the surface weighing heavily on my heart. Will the girls still love our church home and grow to be faithful Christians if our attendance is a little less regular?
Plus, once we cross over the threshold into the sanctuary of the church, are my husband and I able to grasp the content presented? Are we able to take the biblical principles we learned and apply them to our daily routine? Are we really answering God’s call for our lives, or are we so frazzled that we are really just physically there, without being spiritually present?
During services where I’m walking around the courtyard with a cranky preschooler or spending the sermon rocking an infant to sleep, I have serious doubts that my family’s presence at church is really necessary or beneficial. Maybe it would be best for everyone if we attended worship occasionally, and let the kids act like kids somewhere else.
As I reflected on this quandary, a verse popped into my mind and seems to have taken up residence for times like these:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
~Hebrews 12:1-3 (emphasis mine)
Community is the reason we are in church each weekend. God designed us to live this way, so that we can have the support and encouragement we need to carry out His call for our lives. Within this holy space, we have community with our church family, the entire body of Christ, and with God Himself. And we reap the full benefit of that relationship when we show up.
It just might be that in the season of raising our young daughters, simply showing up is our calling. Keeping our minds on our larger purpose and the eternal significance of nurturing our children in Christ helps me to overlook the inconveniences and frustrations of having small children in church.
Our daughters with their small stature, but towering spirits and impressionable minds, will have the memory of this community as they grow up. Their attendance in church brings a pattern and cadence to their week. It reminds them that they are working towards a goal that is larger than themselves. Being in church shows them that they will always have a place in this world.
And, most important, they can remember that the support of this community helped them answer God’s call for their own lives. When they look back on these younger years, our girls can know with certainty that they were given a firm foundation in their faith. Wherever future roads my take them, they can rest assured that they have a crowd of witnesses cheering them on.
What is it like in your house as you get everyone out the door in time for church?