Through the praise of children and infants
As the closing song ended in church today, my three-year old, who I'd been trying to corral the entire service, shouted, "Mom! It's over! It's over! Mom! Mom! It's over!"
To which I replied, thinking no one could hear me, "Yep. We made it. We made it through church again."
The mom in front of me (whose children sat nicely all through church), turned around and started laughing (with me, not at me) and said, "Isn't that the truth! Kind of sad, huh?"
Well, yes, I get it. It's kind of sad that "making it through the service" is a goal. But on the other hand, that's an important goal too.
See, I love going to church. I have loved church my whole life. The fellowship, the music, worshiping alongside fellow Christians, hearing God's Word spoken aloud, hearing a message on God's Word, the Children's Message, the choir, all of it. I really do love church.
However, like many of you, making it through church is another story. Loving church, easy. Making it through the service with a row full of kids, rather difficult. Makes you want to give up sometimes.
Take today as a great example. Due to Paul's work schedule I frequently take my kids to church alone. Today was one such day that I was alone at church. It was a very typical morning and nothing out of the ordinary happened, but it's also a prime example of how just making it through is a big goal at this point in our family life. (Notice I said at this point. That's important. Cheerios won't be spilling under our chairs forever, which is why getting our children into a pattern of attending worship at an early age is so crucial for us.)
My very sleeping baby was napping during the time we would normally go to Sunday School, so I suggested doing at-home Sunday School. We grabbed the children's Bible and read the same story about Joseph that they would have heard in Sunday School. We even memorized a Bible verse to help us remember that in the midst of trials like Joseph went through, God is working for our good and has plans for our lives. It was fun and effective.
But not easy. Greg was lying on the couch as I read from the Children's Bible for like 10 minutes, kicking his sister's lap the whole time, gently, but highly annoyingly. Do I kick him out of Sunday School for misbehavior? Maybe I should have. But I really wanted him to hear the story. So I just reprimanded him over and over. His sister, not getting hurt at all, found the experience to be a mix between annoying (during which moments she screamed "GRRREEEEEEEEEEGGGGGGG" as whiney as possible) and funny (during which times she giggled incessantly at her brother's misbehavior.) It wasn't easy.
But you know what? In the midst of the chaos they actually absorbed the Bible story, and we had sweet conversation about the fact that God has plans for our lives even when everything seems messy.
And then as we drove to church afterward, we practiced our Bible verse. And they got it. They actually got it. In the midst of chaos they got it. And that makes it worth it.
And then we arrived at church. Griffin is at the age that he just crawls away from us the whole service and bangs his head on the metal bracing of the chairs in front of us, so rather than mess with that challenge I took him to the nursery.
So I'm in church with my 3, 5, and 7 year old. We worship in a large multi-purpose gym so the chairs are not bolted to the floor like traditional pews are. So, my kids are constantly (mostly by accident but not always) pushing their chairs back into the legs of the people behind us, and I'm constantly straightening the chairs so the people behind us can actually have some space. Greg is having a fairly challenging 3-year-old day and was completely unable or unwilling (I'm not sure which) to sit still the entire hour. He had to pee. He needed a drink. He needed to crawl under the chair in front of him to search for his book. He lost his crayons. He banged his head. He had to pee again. I'm sure the family behind us will make sure to never sit behind us again.
And then I had to go up front because I was the Scripture reader today - and although I had prepped him and talked to him about how he was just supposed to stay in the chairs with Evie and Lily for a minute - he instead of course ran after me screaming. "Mom! Mom! Come back! Come down from there!"
Thankfully a friend was sitting near the front and swooped him up in her arms and carried him to the back of the room. Then during the message, after his bag of snacks was gone (which of course I still pack to occupy them for a bit while I try to learn), he is again under the chair, on the chair, in my lap, under my feet, sitting on his sister's head, laughing at the teen boy behind us (who I am pretty sure had no idea why Greg was laughing at him), running to get a drink, and so on.
And then after he EXCLAIMS "Mom, It's Over!" He's off. He's gone. In a large room of a couple hundred people moving around, Greg's gone. He's off sprinting somewhere and I'm left in the dust trying to pick up crayons. And friends say, "Hi Rebecca!" and I rush by them barely able to say hi back because I'm trying to make sure my three-year-old sprinter doesn't go run himself in front of a car. So the whole "love of fellowship" piece is thrown out the window at this point.
I realize now that you're wondering why on earth I think this is worth it. Believe it or not, I'm actually NOT trying to talk you out of family worship. I'm actually trying to talk you into it.
Because of this. Because in the midst of all the chaos, Gregory folded his hands with me today and prayed The Lord's Prayer. He couldn't keep up with the pace of the congregation saying those ancient sacred words, but he tried. And he really prayed. And then he sang all the words to one of my favorite worship songs today. He sang, "Bless the Lord oh my soul, Oh my soul, Worship His holy Name. Sing like never before, Oh my soul, I'll worship your holy name."
I was holding Greg in my arms as we stood and sang that song, and he sang all the words. Do you know what it's like to hear your three-year-old son sing the last verse of that song? "And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come; still my soul will sing your praise unending, 10,000 years and then forever more." Do you know what it's like to have your little boy, who can be so defiant and naughty but whose heart really is so loving and so full of love for God, sing those words? Many of you do know. It's amazing. It's worship. My mom is in eternity and my three-year-old is singing about eternity. That, my friends, is something to behold.
And right next to us my 7 and 5 year old girls were singing right along with us, "Bless the Lord, oh my soul, worship His holy name." They were worshiping. Such beautiful praise. And during our pancake lunch we practiced our Bible verse again and they wanted to recite it alone without my help. And they got it.
So the morning was hectic yes, but it's so worth it. And the afternoon is hectic too. As I'm typing this my girls have been fighting in their room while playing Barbies and I've had to pause more than once to reprimand them...please don't wake your napping brothers!
So the chaos is constant for sure. In church and out of church. I honestly don't expect the chaos to subside until they are all grown and have moved out of the house, and then I'll ache for the chaos and count the minutes til I get to go immerse myself in my grandkids' chaos.
It's always chaotic. And yes, making it through the worship service is my goal most Sundays. But I think it's a good goal. Because in the midst of making it through my babes praise the Lord. And they see me and Paul praising the Lord. And they hear the love and grace and truth of God proclaimed. And they see the bread and the wine. And they watch as both babies and adults are baptized in Christ. And they pray, alongside people of all generations, those ancient words that Jesus taught us to pray. And they sing powerful songs about the reality of Heaven and the glory of God. And it's really good. And it's worth it.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,