It was a Sunday morning in the not so distant past and I took our 3 children by myself to church. Lately this has been the case as my husband works night shift as a correctional officer and is sometimes mandated to work an extra shift that happens to fall on Sunday morning. This means he works 10 pm -6 am and 6 am-2 pm in one day. Other weeks we have small group Sunday evening and if he wants any sleep at all, he must miss church, while still other times he tries his best but is just too exhausted to stay awake after coming off of night shift Sunday morning. Sorry, I’m a detail oriented person and now you know the inner workings of my husband’s job. 😉
Anyway, I’m walking into the sanctuary this particular Sunday morning as the worship portion of the service is starting with my 3 kids in tow and my two girls find a plastic ball on the floor. As I’m focusing on getting us all into our row of seats, my girls decide they are going to play with the ball off to the side of the rows of seats. By play with I mean throw…during the church service. Disappointed by their choices, I walk over, remove the ball from their possession, place it back on the floor, and quietly ask that they go to their seats. Initially this happens, however one of my girls decides to walk back over to the ball shortly after and throw it off to the side of the seats. Another hushed discussion was had. Shortly after I happen to look over and see one of my girls turned around and just openly staring at a couple behind us…awkwardly. So..I ask her to turn around. At one point my youngest daughter asked me to hold her while we sang and I did. This worked well for awhile, keeping her content and contained, until my eldest wanted to be held as well. I explained to her that unfortunately I don’t think it would work very well being that she weighs more than her sister. Obvious pouting ensued. The last note of the last song rings out and the little jingle begins to play to dismiss the children for children’s church. I breathe in a sigh of relief. We made it. Well…almost.
It was time to exit the sanctuary to walk my girls back to the children’s wing of the church to their classrooms. My middle child decided to run ahead of me as she often does and ran out the center doors while my other two children and I exited the side doors of the sanctuary. I figured I would just catch up with her in the lobby. Wrong. She became alarmed when she quickly turned around and realized mom wasn’t behind her. She darted back into the sanctuary and while the pastor was preaching began half shouting, half crying, ”Mom! Mom!” She was heading back in and through rows in the general direction of where we had been sitting. I circled back into the sanctuary as quickly as I could with my other two children in tow and had to walk in front of people and in between several rows to get to her as quickly as possible as I was whisper shouting, “Maggie! Maggie!” while those in the audience began chuckling. It was rather humiliating to say the least. It was over fairly quickly though and I caught up with her. We exited the sanctuary and after seeing she had calmed down, I had a conversation with her about not running ahead of mommy because then we could get separated. You would think this is where the strife for one morning all ended…but you’d be wrong.
I dropped the girls off in their classrooms and headed back to the sanctuary with my infant son in tow, ready to sit down and take in the sermon, free of distraction. The second I sit down, he begins to cry. It’s time to nurse. I should have known. Just about every Sunday as soon as I’m finished dropping the girls off in their rooms, like clockwork, he’s hungry. So, I stand up…again, sling my diaper bag over my shoulder and walk out. By this time, I’m sure everyone recognizes me from the previous ordeal as I stand up to leave yet again. I go back to the small nursing room and I think to myself, ”I’ll just turn on the AV channel on the TV and listen to the sermon that way.” Well…nope. The TV channel is not on the right input and I can’t find it. It’s been on the right channel every other Sunday, but not today. I finish nursing Dax, change his diaper, and walk to the coffee area. Surely there is some leftover coffee for this weary mother and maybe even some yummy creamer I’d seen on previous Sundays?! NOPE. I. Was. Done. I sulked and walked back into the sanctuary where I caught maybe the last 5 minutes of the sermon before it was already time to go pick my kids back up. And you know what? I distinctly remember on that Sunday, as soon as we got out to the parking lot…Maggie ran ahead of me after I had told her not to….again. I felt so defeated, overwhelmed, and questioned if I even got anything out of the sermon because of how distracted I was and how little of it I actually caught due to caring for and disciplining my children during church. Sundays like this cause me to ask, ”Is this even worth it?!”
My answer is yes. It is. It’s worth it because my kids are seeing the value in making Christ a priority by setting aside time each week to meet with Him, to give him our praise and to devote time to get to know Him more. They are learning the importance of fellowshipping with other believers. It says in Hebrews 10:24-25, ”And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Speaking of encouraging, on another recent Sunday, it was just the kids and I at church again and one of my girls was acting quite squirrelly during praise and worship time-in and out of the aisle and just all around not listening. After several disciplinary discussions I glanced over to see her dangling off the end chair with her feet on the chair and her hands on the ground. Well, that was the last straw for me. I had had enough. I told the kids we were leaving the sanctuary. As I left our row and headed out the back door to go have a more private discussion with my daughter, a kind woman stopped me and said, ”Can I help you? Can I take your baby? You look like you could use some help.” She had a look of genuine love and concern on her face and I knew she could tell exactly how I was feeling in that moment. I kindly declined and proceeded to take all 3 children with me to the nursing room to have a private discussion until children’s church began. After the church service was over, this same woman came up to me and said, ”I’m sorry I just came up to you like that. You probably don’t want a stranger taking your baby.” I chuckled and said I didn’t mind. She continued to tell me that when her kids were young, they used to be the same way-very busy in the church service while other kids would sit nice and quiet. I told her I could tell she knew how I was feeling when she asked if I needed any help and I said that I appreciated her kind gesture. We introduced ourselves and I walked away so encouraged and I didn’t feel so alone in my struggle bringing young children to church anymore. Someone else got it and had been there before.
So, what I’m trying to say is, attending church on Sunday morning is not about perfectly behaved children, that perfect cup of coffee, or technology that’s cued up in the nursing room. It’s about being intentional with our time. It’s about not giving up meeting together as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s about letting God meet us weary mothers right where we’re at…even if it’s in the nursing room, for the billionth time. Don’t give up on going to church with small children. I know it’s hard, but it’s worth it!