I was trying something new, going to church with my aunts, uncles and cousins… mostly because I couldn’t do another Sunday of church with both kids by myself.
I whimpered inwardly when I learned that children’s church was closed for the summer my task for the next hour would be managing my four year old daughter throughout the service.
We’d never made it through a service without bailing before. The odds were never in our favor.
We shimmied our way into pew and I was instantly thankful for the engineering behind this old school church seating. There were people on every side of us, at least she wasn’t going anywhere.
The service started with a slideshow from a recent mission trip, which managed to hold her attention for a while.
Then the music started and she fidgeted from person to person, crawling down the pew behind me. Each rotation struck me with grace and guilt.
I always worrying that I’m robbing someone else of a meaningful God encounter when they take time to help with my children.
Then the sermon started and I sucked in one big, deep breath and broke out the big guns, the iPhone.
There, I thought, that oughta keep her entertained for a while. And it did, I was even able to take in scraps of the message in-between answering questions about bejeweled.
Later, I noticed her flipping through my photo albums and smiled at the thought of her reminiscing about family memories while we enjoyed church together… well sort of together.
Then it happened. Before I knew it I heard my own voice yelling loudly, interrupting the sermon. “I’m gonna powerwash you!” I yelled.
But it wasn’t me, it was my phone. My daughter had managed to play a video from the previous night’s bath and 2 seconds later (what seemed like) the entire congregation turned around and stared in our direction.
I frantically grabbed the phone and turned the volume off, my face red with shame.
After ensuring the phone was completely mute I gave it back to her, simply because I had no plan B at that point.
I tried to tune back into the message but I was devastated and shamed, convinced that every other four year old in every other church in the world was sitting quietly next to their mother without peep or protest.
Then, if you can believe it, it happened again. She managed to click over to iTunes and start a song blaring through the sanctuary.
I muttered “Oh for the love!” and grabbed at it again, taking it away from her for good this time as my eyes welled up with shameful tears.
She whimpered and fidgeted loudly, begging to go home. I choked back tears, all the while convincing myself that my family was crazy embarrassed by our presence.
The rest of the service passed painfully before we made our way out the doors. I was sure that everyone there believed I was the worst mother with the most unruly kids in the history of church attendance.
Before I bolted, my sweet uncle pulled me aside and lovingly assured me that I was doing just fine and that every experience with kids is a chance to teach and grow. I know, I love him too…
Finally we made it to the car and I collapsed on the steering wheel wondering how older mothers ever survived all the years of stress due to keeping children quiet in church.
And on a scale of one to ten how abnormal is my daughter? What are the rest of the four year olds doing in church?
I love the idea of my children tuning into liturgy and congregational worship but the reality of it just might kill me. Seriously kill me.
I want Noelle to learn patience, the art of being still and absorbing the world around her… but I have no idea how to do it.
How does one teach a four year old whirlwind to be still… to be patient?
Then from somewhere entirely other it hit me.
Patience begats patience.
Impatient people can’t instill patience into others because they’ve none at all to give.
I’m not a patient person by nature, I don’t have a lot for myself and I have even less for others. I’d prefer that Noelle was born knowing how to put on her shoes and sit through church but she isn’t, she has everything to learn and me as her guide.
If I ever have a chance at doing church, school.. life with my children then this patience must grow in me.
I need to adopt an attitude that says to the world: “Hey, we’re here and we’re learning. I need to have patience for this process and I hope you can too. We may be loud and we may get it wrong a few times at first but we all learned this once, please extend grace … I need it so badly.”
Patience births patience. May it be born in me and then passed on, multiplied in such a way that it’s none of me and all of spirit.
How do you muster patience for the process of learning life?
Do you have a cringeworthy church with kids story to share? (I’d sure feel better if you did.)