Within the last week, both of my children succumbed to tears because I would not let them be at church. As a mom, I am either doing something very wrong, or I’m doing something very right!
So, let me tell both stories… to either share a lesson learned, or be an act of confession!
My 8-year-old plays in a year-long soccer league. There are no games right now, but there are weekend practices. Unfortunately, many of them fall on Sunday mornings. So far we have been able to either adjust our church attendance time or just skip practice to ensure soccer would not get in the way of our commitment to church. Last Sunday, practice started at 9:45. I had multiple discussions with my son about leaving 5 minutes early and changing clothes quickly so we could make our 11 am service on time.
As our departure time neared, I gathered my things and stood to get my son’s attention. He saw me, but continued to play. I stood still, unable to be the lame mom that dragged her kid off the field. He kept playing, then talked to coach, then casually walked to pick up his ball and then finally moved towards me. By this time, I can already tell we will be late. When he joins me at the side of the field, I am frustrated. “I told you to hurry. Come on! We will be late!”
We rush towards the bathroom so he can change. I stand outside – my patience fading fast! Finally – with only 3 minutes left before church begins – he walks out of the bathroom fighting back tears. He stands before me with a long sleeve button-down shirt, dress socks, and shorts from last summer which are clearly too short for him!
I stare in disbelief. We cannot go to church like this! I am furious! We race to the car; the clock turns to 11:00 as we pull out of the parking lot. I proclaim in my scary mom voice that we will not make it to church on time and it is too disruptive to show up late! My son is overcome by emotion – puddles of tears fall while he gasps to apologize!
I’ll skip the rest of the gory details, and share the good news that we made it to church only 15 minutes late, my son wearing the appropriate length pants. We had resolution, set aside our stressful arrival, and simply worshiped together! We later took time for a discussion about commitments and priorities – an important topic for both of us to reflect upon.
Wednesday night arrives… My 4-year-old is independent – in a wonderful, yet at times infuriating way. During our mid-week worship service, my daughter refused to listen to any instruction. As I became more frustrated with her, she became angry with me. After I asked her to stand up for prayers, she proceeded to lie on the ground and kick my shins. This is not behavior I will tolerate from my 4-year-old – no matter how feisty she can be!
As the congregation sang “Build us up Lord” in the background, I picked her up and dragged my screaming daughter out of the church and to the car. She screamed at me the entire way: “I want to go to church!” As we drove home, I realized that both of my children had cried in this same car when I angrily told them we would not go to church!
The car came to a stop in the garage, and I pulled the keys from the ignition. My daughter’s tears had begun to subside. She said “I’m sorry mommy!” then unbuckled and drew towards me, desperate for touch and forgiveness. We cuddled close, bundled in winter coats in the cold garage, and talked about why we go to church: “To worship God,” declared my daughter. We talked about how her behavior prevented both of us from being at church to worship. I was able to consider my own thoughts and actions which interfere with my presence in worship. My actions may not include lying on the ground kicking others, but distracted thinking can be equally disruptive!
In both stories with both of my children, there was anger and tears prompted by our lack of presence in church. Yet each story ended beautifully: with conversation about faith and worship, forgiveness on both sides, and big hugs! My kids are amazing and I admire their ability to set anger aside and be in relationship. And even more, I admire their desire to belong in church!