It started out well. For a while he was mesmerized by it all.
Then the newness wore off and routine set in and the story is a little different now.
I've shared that at our church, children join their parents in the service when they turn three. That means for a little over 6 months now, we've had Isaac with us in church every Sunday morning. For a few weeks he was content to sit in his Daddy's lap and take it all in for the majority of the time. I even remember one week we didn't get ANYTHING out of his bag we brought for him except his big boy Bible. For weeks he would color some Bible pages or do one of the activities I had prepared for him in his bag, but honestly, he did better than I ever imagined a 3 year old would do.
Fast-forward to today and he's begun to get antsy, bored and downright difficult sometimes to keep still and quiet during the sermon. I've rotated the things I've prepared but lack of time, motivation and inspiration has left me without something new for him to do. He still does pretty well during the music, but then again, he doesn't have to be still and quiet during that time either. What started out as a "new phase" in our family's life that I was nervous and a little excited about has digressed into something that often causes stress and frustration. Add to that the fact that we have another one joining us in service in less than a year and my mind can quickly jump to the mindset that this is "a period we just have to endure."
But I don't want it to be that way. I don't want to miss out on worshiping God with my brothers and sisters in Christ on Sunday mornings while I'm waiting for my kids to figure out how to pay attention well enough for ME to pay attention.
I decided it was time to pull out a book I got for my birthday called Parenting in the Pew. Two chapters into the book and I'm already really grateful I did.
The author shares her own struggle with worshiping on Sunday morning because of different distractions. Her mentor reminded her that "There is no external circumstance that can keep me from worship... I was the problem in the pew." Ouch.
If Jesus' followers could worship in chains, hiding, sickness, etc. then certainly we can worship when the circumstances around us are different than we want. If I struggle to worship God, it's not the place or the pew that are the problem... it's me. Castleman says, "I have learned that worship begins in the heart of the believer, with or without a bulletin... With or without music that suits my taste... And with or without children."
But that's not all. She goes on.
"Worship is for God's glory, not my benefit." Now obviously, I benefit on some level when I bring glory to God, but I am not the point in worship. God is. If my outlook as I head into a church service is, "What's in it for me?" it's likely that having a child sitting next to me will leave those desires unfulfilled and my heart frustrated and disappointed.
If you're like me, this isn't new information, but somehow knowing something in my head can quickly fly out the window when I'm confronted with a situation where I have to live it out in real life. Having a 3 year old ask me in a less than quiet whisper about something that they think is urgent and I am sure is not often makes me lose sight of the One whom I'm worshiping. Or being handed a crayon that escaped for the 17th time from the gracious person sitting behind us. Or trying not to yelp out loud in pain as he steps on my toe when he climbs over me to sit in Daddy's lap for a change of scenery.
But me and my circumstances are not the point. The reason I am there is to worship the Living God. And that may not look like taking notes or hanging on the pastor's every word. I can leave church every Sunday morning having worshiped God. Even if I spend half the time in the "cry room", if I begin to embrace the fact that diligently training, correcting and showing my child every Sunday morning that we are there to worship God (not just be quiet and sit still), I am worshiping.
As Castleman poignantly states, "Parenting in the pew can be a hassle. Or it can be holy."
Father, help me keep the holy in mind when it comes to the nitty-gritty practical of responding to potty emergencies, growling tummies, and the ill-timed comments. Help me remember that it's all an act of worship and YOU are the object, not me. To You be the glory and honor. Amen.
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