Mornings and I don’t get along. Even on the best of days without children, mornings are hard for me. Add round-the-clock nursing into the mix and getting up, let alone going out, takes herculean effort. All this to say, if I make a public appearance before noon these days, you can be sure it’s someplace that matters to me.
Now that we have two young children, getting out of the house is quite a production. In the three weeks that we have existed as a family of four, we have made it out as an entire family a grand total of 4 times. Of those occasions, only once have we gotten out the door in the morning.
I haven’t always seen the point of making the effort to get to church though. There was a time not so long ago when I questioned the value of showing up Sunday after Sunday. When Allie, my oldest daughter, was about 9 months old, I really wondered why I even bothered.
Recently, I wrote a piece for SheLoves Magazine called, “Young Mother, Thank You For Showing Up.” In it, I reflected on the experience of being at church with a young child and what finally convinced me that it was all worth it.
Here’s an excerpt:
Before having a child, no one warned me that it would profoundly change my experience of church.
For the first few months, we hardly made it out on Sundays. But after we got into a routine and started attending relatively regularly again, I was surprised by how different church was.
Not only did it take a hundred times longer to get out of the house, I quickly discovered that even if I was physically there, it was ridiculously hard for me to stay mentally present. It was as if my baby’s attention span (or lack thereof) had rubbed off on me.
When my daughter reached the exploratory stage where being rocked at the back of the sanctuary no longer sufficed, I found myself asking every Sunday, “Why am I even here?”
Either my husband or I would take turns sitting in the nursery while she happily meandered among the toys, ate snacks or pooped herself and we missed out on yet another service.
I could be doing this at home in my PJs! I’d think. Oh, we tried to at least sing some songs and tell a Bible story to the babies, but it all felt so futile.
I wanted so deeply and desperately to meet with God. Of course, I knew God could be met outside of the sanctuary doors too. But I missed the feeling of getting lost in a worship song or challenged by an engaging sermon. After all, God could meet me just as well in my living room at 4 am. I didn’t have to schlep my sorry self to church for that.
What made it worse was that I didn’t get to connect with other people either. After service as everyone mingled over coffee and snacks, I would barely manage to make eye-contact with a someone before my daughter needed something from me. It wasn’t fair to expect anyone to stand around awkwardly waiting for me to wipe the snot off my kid’s face if we hadn’t even gotten past “Hello.”
Week in and week out, I showed up at church feeling emptier and emptier while the question of “Why do I even bother?” grew stronger and stronger.
Then, one night, I had a dream.
Click here to read the rest of the piece on SheLoves Magazine.
What I learned was that presence matters. It matters that I show up. It matters that my children show up. I don’t think of it in a guilt-inducing way. I still decide not to go to church on certain Sundays because I need to rest and I know that saying no is an act of respecting my limits. But realizing that my presence matters gives meaning to my being at any given place. And it helps me to treasure others as well, knowing that their presence matters too.