Sunday mornings are otherwise known as an “exercise in patience.” In past years, I just grabbed my purse, walked out the door, and hoped I had left with enough time to run through our favorite coffee spot on the way to church. I often miss the days where I sat quietly, alone, slowly sipping my coffee during the service.
Now, I have no commute. My husband is the pastor at our church, and we live in the parsonage. I can touch our garage and the church at the same time. This is wonderful, considering my husband and I can head over completely separate from each other without having to worry about who is taking what car or which kid.
Theoretically getting to church shouldn’t be that hard, and some days are super smooth. Silas comes up to me with a proud smile, telling me he is dressed, and he even has his “church clothes” on! But on many Sunday mornings, no one can find clothes and everyone is fighting. Elijah won’t stop crying because he has the wrong color cereal bowl, and then he is still crying because in the time it took to find the right color bowl, his cereal became soggy. As for me, I had resolved earlier that I would be patient and have a good attitude. The resolve didn’t last long. Instead, I find myself barking orders and yelling about how there will be no screen time if there is any more hitting or sassing!
I chug the last of my cold coffee that I intended to drink an hour ago and we head out the door to walk to church.
We file into our pew. We have six boys and as the solo parent on Sunday mornings, things can get dicey! For instance, one Sunday, the baby, Noah, pooped through all of his clothes, leaving me to head to the nursery with Elijah in tow, to “hose Noah down,” only to come back to a fight that was quickly escalating to a drop-down, drag-out brawl. The fight happened to be over which superhero they were going to be, and which superpower they will have, and “No! For the hundredth time! You can’t have your superpower be ‘all the superpowers’! That’s cheating!” And “why are you having a full blown “whisper” conversation while your dad is preaching!!” I then work to get everyone settled for the time being, and exhale, trying to refocus so I can hopefully glean something from the sermon.
There have been many Sundays where I have sat in church and asked myself, “Why am I here?” “Should I just come back in 10 years when the kids are bigger – when this is all easier?”
Going to church with kids can be hard. Any parent in church has experienced this. But if I really think about it, even before kids, back when I could just grab my purse and head out the door, going to church was hard some days then, too. It’s hard when you just want to catch up on some sleep, or you have a million things to do that day and you know church will eat into half of your time. It’s hard when you are struggling with chronic pain, or depression, or maybe there is someone who has hurt you, and they’ll be there. Maybe you don’t feel like you would be welcome. Maybe you feel like you don’t have your life together enough for church. The truth is at any stage and any age in life, for so many different reasons, going to church can be downright hard.
So why do we go? Why do we make it a priority?
There are the typical answers, that aren’t really answers, but the lies we have convinced ourselves are true. So first, let me dispel a few hurtful myths about why we go to church:
1) Going to church will not win brownie points with God, this is not getting me a better seat in heaven.
2) I’m not going so I can learn to be a better person.
3) I’m not leaving with a list of things I should do to improve my walk with the Lord.
4) I’m not taking my kids to church in the hopes that they will be better behaved.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to go to church if there was a tangible goal I was achieving, or a sticker for my chart. That would give me a sense of accomplishment. But that is not how God works, and it also puts all the pressure on me, which inevitably leads to failure.
I don’t go to church to please God or to turn my kids into “good Christian boys.”
I go to church because my soul needs to hear God’s word preached.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to go to church if there was a tangible goal I was achieving, or a sticker for my chart.
God works miracles through his proclaimed word. Instead of adding to the burden that I have been carrying around, I’m reminded once again that I have been forgiven, Jesus has taken my burden.
One Sunday morning before Elijah was old enough to fully talk, I remember going to church while my heart was still raw from some deep hurt. That particular morning it was hard to get there. While we sang during worship, I held Elijah in my arms and he lifted his little hand high in praise, singing from his heart in unintelligible words. My soul sang with joy in this moment even though sorrow was the cloud I had been walking in. This is why I am here. The Lord was ministering to my two year old’s heart, as well as mine. It’s a miracle I will never fully understand, the ability that the Lord has to meet each one of our needs where we are at.
I will hear God’s word, whether it’s in snippets while I pass out gummies or piercing through my cloud of sorrow while I feel drowned in my to-do list. The Holy Spirit has the ability to overcome my distractions and my struggles and speak to my weary soul.
And in spite of arguments and pouting lips, God also speaks the truth of his work on the cross on their behalf to my children, too.
This is why we go to church.
At church, we each come together from our individual places of brokenness and worship under the cross. At church, we are reminded that you don’t need to “clean up” to come, because Christ calls us to come as we are. He does the washing. I may feel a mess as I come with my kiddos. I may feel guilty when they get loud and distracting during the service at times, but I know it’s important for us to be there, mess and all.
Come in your mess, come in with your hurt, and pain, and frustrations, and hear the message of truth that reminds us of the one who carries our burdens. Fellowshipping as believers, and hearing of the Lord’s work and love for each one of us never gets old.