In her beauty, there was exasperation. A war of emotions that she was struggling to maintain. I could see in her the need to be out of the home for once this week and wearing makeup, real clothes, and having conversations with other adults. But I could also see her desperate need to get out of here. To leave before her child made a big ruckus that would no doubt embarrass her and make her feel [though unwarranted and unnecessary] a failure. I could see all these things in our short, 5 minute conversation because they were everything I had felt, too, at one point. As a mom, one of the hardest things to tackle is worship service.
“…Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…” – Jesus — Luke 18:15-17
Children were important to Jesus. He wanted them around Him. People were bringing their children and babies to Jesus so He could lay His hands on them (time out… can you just imagine for a second that you got to bring YOUR child to the SON OF GOD and He would lay His hands on him/her?? WOW!!… okay, time in!) and the disciples were getting on to them, afraid they were bothering Jesus. Not so. He told the disciples to “let the children come”.
But today, today there is apprehension for some parents when it comes to worship service. Maybe not for all parents, maybe not for all services, maybe not for all bodies of believers. But for me, for some that I’ve talked to, we have felt it and feel it still.
What has happened to us (the church) that moms and dads are now worried to bring their children to worship service? Maybe not every parent feels like this, but I know that I did/do. I don’t feel like it all the time. Sometimes I’m totally at peace with it and if my kids act up, then I deal with it. Sometimes I take joy in the fact that my children want to sit with other people at worship service because I know they love those people and those people are the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. that my kids have here. But other times, the anxiety of feeling like my children are bothering people or that people are annoyed by the behavior of my children weighs heavy on me and I just feel swallowed up in my feelings of failing as a parent. “I can’t even get my kids to sit still.” “My kids are so noisy!” “No other kids act like this.” “So-and-so is watching me again, I’m sure her kids never acted like this.” And sometimes, all those negative thoughts and feelings weigh so heavily that I just can’t bring myself to get passed it and end up staying home so my children are not a burden to the flow of service. Up until recently, I’ve only ever told Joey that and I hate to admit it, but sometimes, it’s true.
The doubts and anxieties take over and I find myself not in a mindset of worship, but in a mindset of “Why am I even here?” “I’m not getting anything from this worship service because I can’t focus on anything for more than five seconds before I’m wrangling a kid or shushing someone.” “What’s the point?” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that many, many other young moms (and dads) have felt this exact way. We struggle. And sometimes, we decide the struggle isn’t worth it and we stay home.
What happened to create this environment? What are we (the church) doing or not doing that’s leading to some people not attending? Maybe it’s because we’ve come to worship the worship service more than the God we’re meant to worship? Maybe it’s because in our reality tv competition driven society we’ve come to be too comfortable with judging and critiquing others? Maybe it’s a combination of factors? And maybe, maybe it’s something so simple as we’ve become so wrapped up in our own little worlds during worship and making sure that our “pew” is well-dressed, well-kept, and well-behaved, that we’ve forgotten to encourage and uplift those around us?
There have been times when someone saw me struggling and didn’t help, didn’t encourage, just sat there and watched as I struggled alone with my kids while Joey was preaching. Then there have been those gracious souls who have welcomed one of our children into their laps, or rocked one of our babies, just so I wouldn’t be so outnumbered. There have been women who come up to me and give me encouragement and reassurance, and those simple, short comments have made all the difference.
“Criticizing other moms isn’t making your mom gig any easier.”
The mom that I talked to and saw all of myself in her, I wanted to hug her and tell her it’s gonna be okay. “This, too, shall pass.” I didn’t, and I still wish that I had. But, even without the hug I tried to comfort her. I told her I had felt exactly what she was feeling SOOOO many times before. This mom gig is so stinking hard. Criticizing other moms isn’t making your mom gig any easier. But from now on, and this is me putting it out here so I’m held accountable (YIKES), I’m going to make it a point to encourage moms more. Especially those who spend their worship service wrangling kids. What if we all did that? What if we all encouraged all the parents of young children who show up on Sundays and Wednesdays? What if we loved on them a little more openly, a little more frequently, and a little more like we’re called to?
Are we living our calling?