New Year’s Day we arrived at church in plenty of time for us to drop Eden off at the nursery, to drop Lydia off at Sunday school, to deliver a lecture to Christopher on our expectations of his personal conduct during the service and to find seats where we like to sit. We even got a good parking spot. I walked in calmly, relishing the peace and unharried pace. And then I noticed the darkness.
The power was out.
The nursery coordinator was at the front door when we approached. She had a sheepish and apologetic look on her face as she informed us that all of the children’s programs were cancelled.
My shoulders slumped for a moment and then I rallied, telling myself it would be good to be together and welcome the new year as a family with our church family.
The thing is, the last time I was in church was on Christmas Eve. Paul was singing with the worship team and I was up front with all three kids having decided not to put Eden in nursery because I wanted us to be together to sing and celebrate Christ’s birth: that was my first mistake.
The second was nodding a cheerful yes when Eden asked if she could wave a flag. Lydia hustled off to get it for her. It was purple and 3 x 4 feet. The pole was taller than Eden, but she grabbed it and began swinging it with all her might. I managed her and noted the only people near us were smiling and enjoying her spirit. The rest of the congregation were filling the left side of the church, as had I until we stepped out to wave a flag. Now I was in the front row of an empty section, affording the rest of the congregation an excellent view.
My third mistake was again nodding yes, when CHRISTOPHER stepped across the aisle and pointed to the pile of flags. Actually it was my fourth, because I think my first mistake was wearing low rise-ish pants that are too loose for me. I came to terms with this while bent over, moderating toddler flag waving in the front row of my very own half of the church.
This was my routine: hold the flag, pull down my shirt, hitch up my pants, glance over at Christopher, correct Christopher with subtle gestures, grab Christopher gently and lovingly because it’s Christmas and we are in the front row, and that’s the right thing to do always – 0h dear! PULL DOWN SHIRT, HITCH PANTS…so church on Christmas Eve was a little exhausting. Normally it is a fairly small, candle lit service. Half the church was packed and the lights were bright and harsh. The sermon was good, but seemed long from where I heard it at the back after running Eden for an emergency potty session then checking her into the nursery.
I waited there until prayer and then the closing song when I hustled back into my seat just in time to catch some sort of exchange between Christopher and my mom where he was not adequately respectful and she seemed to just leave him in it. I slid next to him and tapped him on the shoulder, he jerked away and then I pulled him onto my lap holding him tightly. It was so frustrating. I might have had 5 billion extra hormones surging through my system and so began to cry. As did Christopher. We sat there, tears streaming down our faces, me clutching him in a vice grip needing to hitch my pants again, having those, “I am a terrible mother and he is a terrible child and why oh why can’t it EVER be different – we need to start sitting in the back of the church” thoughts while Christopher tried to wiggle free and had the “She is a terrible mother and LIFE IS UNFAIR!” thoughts, while everyone around us sang “Joy to the World.”
At home, everyone apologized and forgave and talked things through and cried a little more before the children opened a small gift and then went to bed.
Christmas day we all awoke with runny noses and opted to stay home from church.
So New Year’s Day we found ourselves sitting in a darkened church, without any power, again in the second row. It was peaceful.
The music began and though we couldn’t hear the singers as well and didn’t have the words, we sang along just fine. And though the leader had to bend close to a candle to read scripture, we heard it clearly.
Our pastor came forward and was going to pray but paused and said, “The childrens’ programs were cancelled today so if you find yourself distracted by some of the extra sounds during the service I encourage you to thank God for it and take that time to pray a blessing on the children.”
Something in me I didn’t know was there lifted. And then he prayed.
It was a good prayer, a prayer of repentance asking for forgiveness for ways we have shut out God and minimized Him, for ways we have sinned against Him. Pastor Dave was using the Ten Commandments as the guide in his prayer. He asked God to forgive us for making Him smaller and for putting other idols before him
And then the lights came on.
Pastor Dave just kept praying but I couldn’t help but note that the light returned the moment he repented for worshipping idols. I have spent the last couple of days thinking about what I put before God – it’s a long list, but a lot of it can be piled under My Feelings.
It is clear that God is inviting me to offer them up to Him.
I am figuring out that worshipping my feelings hasn’t helped me to live fully and boldly. Feeling worship has mostly led to depression, hopelessness, inactivity and despair. I’m sick of it.
Last year God invaded my life so profoundly and powerfully. He interrupted me. He came close and asked me if I wanted to follow Him as if that wasn’t what I had been trying to do all along…and I realized it wasn’t. The truth I was living in was that it was up to me me me me Me Me Me ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME – but it isn’t…
And it never was.