I’m failing. I’m falling short. I’m not good at this, I whisper to myself more often than I care to admit. In the many roles I have, those words always seem to be lurking in the back of my mind, just waiting for me to slightly trip up and yell, I told you so.
There is one place that can quell the whispers, calm the anxiety.
And yet, most Sundays I just don’t make it through the doors of our sanctuary.
For me, church is a place of absolute acceptance of the real me, shortcomings and all. It’s a brief moment when I can forget the outside distractions of this world and worship fully with Christ. Most do it from a pew amongst family or familiar faces.
My days of worship look very different these days.
It’s not that I don’t want to be inside. I do. I’d love nothing more than to sit in a pew, Bible flipped open on my lap, attention focused up front. These days, if I make it into the sanctuary, the only thing in my lap is a wiggly 18-month old and my attention is anywhere but up front.
I get ready every Sunday morning in anticipation of hearing God’s word. I drive to church with the intention of sitting through a whole service giving my undivided attention. I look forward to this small piece of restoration. In fact, I require this time. I crave the knowledge bestowed upon me about a Father who loves me. I need to be reminded that His love never fails, even when it feels like I am. Especially when my weary, tired soul feels absolutely spent and I’m not sure I can give much more. I need this time be refilled, reminded, restored.
More times than not, I find myself chasing a toddler down the hallways of the church or bouncing him on my hip looking through closed doors.
My youngest doesn’t last in nursery and after 15 minutes, I get the inevitable text that pulls me from my worship to come grab my son. I don’t mind. Someday he’ll make it through the whole sermon, just not today.
Luckily, our church has speakers outside of the sanctuary and I am thankful for this small blessing. Most Sundays, this is my only way to worship. This is the only way I can revel in God’s glory, catching glimpses of the message between herding my toddler.
So we make our familiar journey to a sitting area just outside the sanctuary that has undoubtedly replaced a pew for many parents of small children. It’s an unofficial club, an unspoken agreement that this is a place where parents and their noisy cargo are welcome without judgment.
If I’m being honest, there are some Sundays we don’t even make it to the sitting area.
A few weeks ago, I attempted church by myself with both of my boys, ages three and 18-months. You guys, it was a circus. We left within 15 minutes of arriving. I tried to smile my way though the looks of pity and understanding. Both of my boys were in full meltdown mode and it looked like it was my first day on the job as a parent.
As I wrangled my boys into their seats, tears and frustration left me feeling defeated. My tears led to more of their tears and I sat there gripping my steering wheel like it would give me an answer.
Then, I remembered. I didn’t fail. I didn’t lose. This is what my life looks like these days. I am a busy mama of two very busy boys.
Maybe I’m being tested. I know I’m being tempted. It would be a whole lot easier to just stay home and try again when my boys are older. I’m not looking for easy. Quite frankly, I deserve more than that. My boys deserve more than that.
So I pulled out my phone and streamed our service from the park across the street.
To any given person, it may seem, as parents, we are preoccupied or distracted by our kids. It may seem like a waste of time to even attempt coming to church.
Make the attempt. The thing is, my boys are watching. They are starting to understand that a relationship with Jesus is important anywhere, everywhere, not just at church.
I am still praising Jesus, I’m just doing it outside the sanctuary. I’m still listening to His word, I might just be doing it from a park bench.
This is my current reality, but in a few years when I’ve long forgotten these days, I’ll see another young mom who has replaced my spot on the couch. I hope she knows what she is doing hasn’t gone unnoticed. What seems like a futile attempt at making a go of church yet another Sunday, isn’t a waste of time. I hope she takes this time to reassure herself of who she is in Christ.
Hold my seat in the pew, though. I’ll be back someday.
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