The continued successes of Ryan Seacrest, Kim Kardashian, and Kendra Wilkinson prove to me that God indeed works in mysterious ways. Not only does He give careers to people who are known primarily for their tanning abilities, God also shows me, again and again, that He's looking out for me.
Some background: when Paul and I were shopping for a church, shortly after Owen was born, we attended several large churches that were especially geared towards young families. They were flashy and fun and had strong youth programs. They were really quite nice.
Yet, we just weren't feeling them. They felt too large, too impersonal, and a little too sanitized. One church in particular strongly encouraged the children to attend the "kids' church" while the adults worshiped sans the kiddos. By "strongly," I mean that an usher told me at least FOUR times that there was a nursery for my (then THREE WEEK OLD) baby.
As you know, newborn babies that sleep twenty-two hours a day are not distracting. Spontaneous lactation accidents are, on the other hand, very distracting. Not wishing to "go with the flow," possibly flooding the sanctuary with my prodigious supply, I told the usher, as nicely as I could, to step off.
We continued to go church-hunting, until we found a nice, justice-focused church that focused more on loving other people and less on picking fights or throwing stones.
But you know what really got me? The children. During services, babies bounced on their parents' knees. Toddlers snacked on crackers. Schoolchildren and teenagers sat with their parents. All were welcome.
Yes, the sermon was occasionally interrupted with a babble or a cry. And while there were probably people in the church that preferred less noise, they kept their feelings to themselves.
It felt like home, probably because it was. All my life, I sat in church with my parents. As a toddler, I probably entertained myself with books. Once I was a schoolchild, I was expected to stand up and sit down at the appropriate times, sing, and generally behave myself. We were rewarded with lunch out if we did so, and time in our rooms if we couldn't keep it together.
In middle school, I remember being bored most of the time in church. When my brother and I realized it was a service with communion, or, Lord Help Us, a baptism, we would sigh and slump in our pews. We understood all too well the scene from The Simpsons, when Bart and Lisa run home after church, and cry, "This is the best part of the week, because this is the farthest point from having to go to more church." (Forgive me: I paraphrase).
We came around some in high school, and, as loyal readers know, I remain a fan of church. My brother will go when visiting my parents, to be polite, but I think there's still a bit of Bart Simpson in him.
And I must admit, I can be a bit conflicted myself. My church works for me, but I'll be the first to concede it's not razzle-dazzle. I worry that the lack of lazer beams, drums, fireworks, or interpretative dancing will cause my boys to suffer the same swells of overwhelming boredom.
I don't care if they are a little bored. At times, I'm sure, they will be bored with EXTREME PREJUDICE. That's just life. It doesn't matter where I take them or what they do: boredom happens.
My fear, however, is that they will be so bored that they will grow to hate church.
Yet, something has happened over the past three weeks that suggests that God has been leading us to the right place all along:
Owen sat through an entire church service. Start to finish. For the third Sunday in a row. In the past, he has spent most, if not all, of his time in the nursery. To me, this sitting still business is no less miraculous than manna from heaven or water to wine (one of my favorite miracles).
During the church hour, Owen will be a snugly-love. He will rest his head on my shoulder, hold my hand gently, or curl up close like a Joey in its pouch. He'll whisper, "I love you," and let me smell his hair as much as I like. I wish I could freeze this moment, for my insides glow as intensely as summer fireflies.
This is why I needed to listen to God's voice as we were finding the right church. He knew all along that my boys will hunger for love, for acceptance, for peace, and for still, sacred moments. As they sit in the pew, they will learn that it's okay to be bored, and that it is also okay to just sit.
Simply giving time is an act of worship.
And, if snuggling with your mother passes the time, it is also a supreme act of grace.