Sunday morning there was a mom with two small children visiting our church.
I heard them before I saw them.
It actually took me a few minutes to figure out exactly where they were sitting,
but when I finally found them in the maze of serious faces I got very uncomfortable in my seat.
My mind immediately jumped back to when Carter was 2 and Lydia was a baby.
Marshall was in residency and we didn’t see him very often.
More often than not, I was alone for church (although he would occasionally slip in after rounds).
Carter usually was (and usually still is) very happy-go-lucky.
But for some reason there was a Sunday that he was clingy and wanted only me.
And then there was Lydia – at the height of separation anxiety and a long, frustrating battle with colic –
who never let me leave her side and rarely stopped crying.
But I was aching to get into church.
I needed it more than I could even explain to myself.
And so I placed Lydia on one hip and Carter on the other and I headed into church.
The first few minutes were okay.
We made it through the songs and the liturgy but as the sermon began, so did the tears.
At first it was her.
All I wanted was to go to church, to sit and to listen, to have my cup filled.
And I sat there and contemplated stepping out.
I guess in some ways that would be been the most polite thing to do.
But at that moment, I was broken and defeated and I remember thinking:
“Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest.“
“Let the little children come unto me.”
“Whoever welcomes the little children also welcomes me.”
Verses learned a lifetime ago popping into my mind.
Although those verses were bouncing around, I could feel the sideways looks of society on me, on my children
and I felt pressured to get up and make a quiet retreat.
Just about the time I decided to claim defeat, a woman slipped into my pew.
She leaned it and said, “I’ve been in your shoes. Do you want some help?”
A more angelic statement had never been uttered.
She managed to get my almost always whining and whimpering baby to smile.
And Lydia even let the woman hold her (which was a minor miracle of its own).
And we sat there together – me, my children and this stranger – and heard the words of God.
And my cup was filled.
(And I am happy to say that the stranger became a friend.)
And so when I was sitting there and watching this young mother struggle, I was torn.
Should I go and offer to help? Or will I just make her feel inadequate and uncomfortable?
I certainly didn’t want to be a further cause of stress.
But I kept thinking of that day when a stranger/friend slipped into the pew beside me.
And so I quietly moved from my pew to hers.
And whispered the same words that were once whispered to me.
And the mother nodded gratefully and quietly mouthed “Thank You”.
The 3 year old and I went out into the hallway.
The mom and baby joined us shortly after that.
And we talked for a few minutes.
And I think (I hope) I did the right thing, I made the right choice.
It’s hard sometimes, though…
because there’s this expectation, this set way that we presume a worship services should be.
And there are certain unspoken rules to which we are all expected to adhere.
And I get it, I understand that.
(I really do.)
‘Big church’ is typically a time of quiet.
And you should try to be courteous to those around you.
And I am sure that it can be distracting for the preacher to have people in the congregation making noise.
But sometimes we need to forget about those rules, what is ‘proper’ or ‘right’,
and just do what we feel led to do.
Sometimes we need to stop listening to the pastor speak of God and actually listen to God directly.
And today I did.
And I almost didn’t tell this story because it sound like I’m bragging.
I’m not. (I promise.)
I’m actually not even telling you this story for you.
I’m telling this story for me.
So that one day when I may have doubts or I may question the reality of God or religion or life or any of that…
I can read this and remember: I have felt God in my heart and I know that God is there.
And when I’m struggling with not being enough, doing enough,
I can read this and remember the tug at my heart that I felt one Sunday morning
and I can remember that if I’ll just follow that feeling, I can do more, be more.
And, if I am being really honest with myself,
I feel that tug much more than I actually admit.
I feel that tug and I brush it off
because I’m too tired
or it’s not ‘my thing’
or I have too many responsibilities already.
And, if I’m being really honest with myself,
maybe all those things that I’m so busy doing aren’t really as important as they seem.
And maybe, if I’m being really honest with myself,
the part of this story that makes me wiggle in my seat the most is this:
I was torn between what society says is ‘right’ and what my heart tells me is ‘right’.
And that even as an adult, peer pressure almost kept me from doing what I knew I was supposed to do.
Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. –Romans 12:2a(CEV)