What are Sunday mornings like at your house? A typical Sunday morning for our family involves milk on the floor, sibling spats, and at least one meltdown per child. There are times I question my decision to voluntarily sacrifice one of our precious weekend mornings to the “get out the door” hustle, especially for just one or two hours of church. Five minutes spent off track helping the 3-year-old look for her special dog-bone underwear and we’ve already missed the passing of the peace. I wonder if anyone reading this can relate.

One Sunday morning awhile back, we were in our own areas of the house, getting dressed for church. My two kids came into my room to tell me they were ready. My three-year-old daughter was wearing athletic shorts, a well-loved oversized t-shirt with two dogs on the front, and light-up Paw Patrol shoes. My five-year-old son had on a t-shirt with a graphic of a large shark with its mouth wide open, striped pajama pants, and mismatched socks (one gingerbread men, one bunnies). “Ohhhhh…” I said, looking them over, trying to keep a neutral tone in my voice so I could take more time to determine my response. These were not “church clothes.” I took a breath, silently reminding myself of why I let them wear what they want to church. Finally I gave my approval. “You guys look great,” I said, and listened to their light-up shoes hit the steps excitedly on the way to the car.

I finished getting myself ready: a slightly less than comfortable dress, some makeup reluctantly applied, and thought about the courage it takes to truly “come as you are.”

As they grow, I hope my children learn that we come to church to meet a God who does not expect us to have it all together; a God who wants us in our mistakes, in our joy, in our hope, in our confusion, in our grief, and in our shark t-shirts and pajama pants. Teaching them this helps me remember it myself. It helps me remember that having it all together isn’t typical. In fact, if you get to know anyone very well you’ll undoubtedly find the opposite to be true. Dig a little deeper and you’ll always find some kind of mess: the affair, the alcoholism, the cancer, the depression, the lost child, the divorce, the aging parent…always. The mess is what brings us together as real, imperfect human beings. Funny that church is often the place where many of us try hardest to appear to have things in order, especially when we claim to know a God who seems to have a soft spot for messes.

I’m trying, these days, to take more cues from my children. Because I’m not perfect; I’m typical. I have a past with messes, and there are days I feel totally mismatched. But my kids give me the courage to show up, disheveled and in meltdown recovery and with milk spilled on my outfit, and to dare to be loved by my co-humans and by our God. 

Erin Landsee

Erin Landsee is a full-time stay at home parent and homeschooling mom of two. She also works as a children's minister and yoga instructor in Iowa City, Iowa.