Faith

When Worship Gets Messy

Written by Maralee Bradley

Written by Maralee Bradley

Photos by Rebecca Tredway

A couple months ago during our Sunday church service I was so touched to see my six year-old with his hands raised during worship.  I wiped the tear from my eye and then realized he was actually shooting invisible Spiderman webs at the people sitting in the balcony.  Yep.  Sounds about right.

Having four kids ages 6, 4, 3, and 1 has made this a really difficult season to focus during the portion of our service dedicated to worshiping God through music.  This is hard for me because before having our fourth child my husband and I had regularly been involved in leading music for every church we’d been part of over the ten years we’ve been together and the three states we’ve lived in.  It has always been a way I’ve enjoyed focusing my mind and heart on my Creator.  These days it just isn’t the same.

I hate to say I’ve had to discipline my kids during worship for trying to climb over the pew or dumping out the entire contents of my purse in the quest to find a snack or pulling the hair of their sibling.  I’ve also tried bribing my kids with candy or gum to have good behavior for at least a song or two.  I’ve tried pre-teaching them the songs we’ll be singing that night, telling them to look for their favorite letter in the powerpoint slides, letting them color, or even holding them so they can’t cause a distraction.  It is exhausting.  And hardly worshipful.

Sometimes as a mother it’s easy to feel like just a pair of hands for making sandwiches and ears for listening to complaints.  It’s hard to remember that YOU have a soul!  Your life matters for more than just the services you provide for your kids or your job.  It’s hard to connect to that reality when your church time is full of you practicing your best child containment strategies and your home life feels like constant crisis management.
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Instead of realizing what a difficult season we’re in, we can let ourselves feel guilty for not only our messy houses and drive-through lunches, but also for not being able to invest in our spiritual health.  The guilt we feel then pushes us away from a real relationship with God.  We keep putting off prayer, Bible reading, or worship for that day when we finally have everything under control:  clean house, quietly playing children, the laundry all folded in the drawers.  Newsflash, Mamas- that day isn’t coming.  Not for a LONG time.  And God is okay with that.  He isn’t waiting for you to be perfect or have a perfectly ordered life before you come to Him.  I can only imagine the sadness I would feel if my kids waited to express their love for me until they were all self-sufficient and had things figured out.  I love them in spite of the jelly on their faces and the plate they broke this morning.  I think God gives me that love for my kids to help me understand His love for me.

So in the middle of my mess, how can I be worshipping?  Dear Mother, let us remind each other that our every act of service for our kids can be an act of worship to The One who made our child and made us.  The mundane tasks of my every day life can take on an entirely new meaning when my heart is oriented towards adoring my God.

 I have been given an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ to the very littlest members of his kingdom.  When I bend to tie my three year-old’s shoelaces (why do they make shoes with laces for three year-olds?!) am I doing it with a kiss on her head and love in my heart or am I sighing in frustration at yet another task it seems I’m the only one who can manage?  

When there is a conflict over who gets the favorite cereal bowl, am I seeing it as a chance to teach them about selflessness or am I tempted to show favoritism toward the child who hasn’t irritated me (yet!) this morning?

 When a child has wet the bed before the sheets from last night’s wet bed have even made it through the washing machine, do I scold them for what they couldn’t help or am I modeling patience as we strip the bed together?

 When I choose to see my acts of service for my kids as acts of service for God, they stop being mundane and become something more. They become moments of worship.
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We love our children well, not because it’s easy or even fulfilling on its own (although it surely can be at times).  We love them well because we are being obedient to God.  We are fulfilled because we know we are doing what He has asked us to do.  We make the macaroni and cheese as working for The Lord and not for men, because it’s likely the little men in our family may be less than appreciative of our efforts.  We take joy in teaching and training our children because we know we are creating soft hearts in them that will be ready to listen to the voice of Jesus when we are no longer guiding and directing them.  We are honored to peacefully discipline them the way our Father disciplines us- always in love and always for our good.
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This is worship.

Maybe it’s hard to find the worshipful moments during the music time at church.  That’s okay.  God was there when you and your kids were singing His praises in the car on the way to the grocery store.  Maybe it’s hard to catch up on your plan to read through the Bible in a year when you’ve gotten a few weeks behind.  That’s okay.  When you cried while reading to your kids from The Jesus Storybook Bible, God saw your tenderness towards His Word.  Maybe it’s hard to string together five quiet minutes in a row to pray without leaving your kids unsafely unsupervised (or let’s be real- without falling asleep).  That’s okay.  God has heard you cry out to Him during your most frustrated mama moments and He heard you teaching your toddler to thank Him for her food.

Life won’t always be this way.  This season of raising high-maintenance little ones will come to an end far too quickly.  During this challenging time, let’s let our lives be testaments to a calling higher than motherhood- the calling of our King.  May we find meaning and worship even in the mundane because we’re serving Him.

About the author

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids ages 8 and under. Four were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, three through foster care in Nebraska) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure.
Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory.
Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on “A Mother’s Heart for God” and what won’t fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.

  • What an encouragement this is! Thank you Maralee for putting into words what God is teaching me in this season.

  • Roylene Michels

    Thanks Maralee for your words of wisdom. Even though I don’t have little ones anymore. I still learn alot form your posting and what you share on the radio. I can always use those words of wisdom for my grand children Blessings to you.

  • tonya

    wow! this was so encouraging to me! i struggle with feeling like a failure because i can never seem to get it all done and when i come close it still doesn’t last more than a day maybe. i prefer being a mary instead of a martha but who else can get it done? so that leaves me to do it all and still not get so much accomplished. i have five 8, 6, 4, 2, and 3 weeks. my husband works two jobs and is not home much. we also have a mini farm. i feel so much of the frustration that you described but am being reminded that God sees it all and accepts those moments that we may think are small or mundane. i have to remember this and cut myself some slack. it is so true! the singing on the way to the store or the tears during the bible story….thank the Lord that those moments mean more to Him than what i probably realize!
    thank you for sharing your story and being an encouragement to me today.

    • Tonya, you made me cry! Thanks so much for your encouraging words and sharing your own struggles with this issue. I’m right there with you!

  • Kristina

    It’s amazing to see how far God has brought you over the years! Thank you for the reminder that all we do is an act of worship to our loving Father.

    • Thanks for investing in me and so many other women, Kristina.

  • Thanks, Maralee for the wonderful post!

    • Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share, Leslie 🙂

  • burdenofglory

    So good. Good reminder for a mama who is serving a little person after having independent children for so long. 🙂

    • And I’m so thankful for the mentoring moms in my life who remember these days and encourage me that they’ll go by quickly 🙂 Thanks for being one of them.

      • burdenofglory

        🙂