This past February my friend Jill wrote a post about parenting in the pew that really resonated with me. As I read through it I felt a deep appreciation for Jill’s plans of teaching her son the value of worship during Sunday service.
But, if I’m honest, it also made me feel very thankful to have a children’s ministry where I simply dropped my kids off and we all did our own, age appropriate thing.
Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t believe that the church is solely responsible for my children’s faith. I believe deeply in the weekly Monday – Saturday work of the gospel in parenting.
Yet, that sacred hour in worship where I can connect with God directly without parental distraction is something nourishing which I deeply appreciated.
Well, we’re not in Oklahoma anymore and now my 4 year old Noelle now spends the musical part of worship in big church with us.
The plan is for her to stand with her class along the side wall but with the new-ness of our church she just wasn’t comfortable with that. She would see us and cry, reaching out for us across the room… so now stays with us until the message begins.
At first when I realized that our new church included children 2 and up in worship I was excited. It fit Noelle’s interests perfectly, the live music, the instruments and the experience of God’s people singing.
I was sure she’d be into it. But she’s not. She doesn’t like it at all.
We tried to explain the vast depth of worship on four year old terms. We gave her very few rules. Only one really: You have to stand up and listen to the music.
You CAN sing, you CAN dance, you CAN raise your hands but you can’t sit down and play on your chair. You have to engage it in your own way, whatever that looks like.
Yet even with the freedom of practically anything she whines through most of it, which means I can’t engage either. Which sucks for both of us.
I was hoping that something innate would click with her and that she would connect with God in some ageless spiritual way that would tenderize my heart to the innocence of faith.
But, no. So this morning I decided to try something new:
As the music played and the people sang I kneeled beside her, whispering the words in her ear. Then I took it a step further and told her what it all meant.
We’re singing about how much God loves us, how he will never forsake us. Forsake means to leave and God will never ever leave us… no matter what we do.
This part means that he is stronger and bigger than anything that could ever happen to us in life. That no matter haw scary or hard life is, he will be with us, he will take care of us.
She still rocked from toes to heels but I swear her eyes lit up a bit.
And in that moment, my knees cold on the concrete floor, we both managed to engage in worship together.
In explaining those worship lyrics I was reminded of the simple, foundational, beautiful truth of the gospel that we all too often forget.
In teaching my children to worship, I re-learn for myself that the things we consider elementary are really quite advanced if they’re being done correctly.
And in that moment I felt something deeper and far bigger than myself. The enormity of the discipleship of parenting loomed in front of me and my knees longed to buckle under the responsibility of it. Of modeling God the right way, whatever that is.
But, I quickly realized that although I play a vital role, the relationship is between Noelle and Christ and even if I were the worst mother on earth I couldn’t come between them, could I?
I have to trust that where I fail, God will show up and whisper the truth. It’s the only way I can sleep at night.
I think we all too often feel as though the weight of our life is completely on our shoulders and forget that at some point, likely early on, God takes over.
We work, we strive, we pour it all out but ultimately we can only do our level best and then trust God to make it into something even lovelier than we’d ever imagined.
So I will keep whispering worship truth into her ears. I will point out the love of God in the beauty of creation. I will read scripture to her on her level and remember to chat about it the next day.
I will be real in my life long journey to lay down my crap, forget my self and surrender to a bigger plan.
I will let her know when I screw up so she doesn’t think faith is easy or that perfection is attainable.
I’ll scribble grace all over our life and allow myself to become overwhelmed with the beauty of it all so she learns how needed it is.
But ultimately I will pray to the God who she ultimately belongs to and beg him to whisper into her ear, to use me and to take over when my humanity fails her.