We’ve been besieged by sickness. Week before last, little bit missed four days of school. This week, the baby missed his four. Friday, the eldest was sent home from school and by Saturday night they all three sounded like they were going to cough up their best lung. I’ve not slept through the night since last Sunday.
So we canceled our Super Bowl party for a couple families on Saturday, amid much crying by all of us who had so been looking forward to it, and missed our Saturday evening plans. Bray and I were divvying up how to handle church the next morning as I had to be there to teach Sunday School. By Sunday morning, we’d decided only little bit would be able to attend the early service with me.
The baby, who has been the worst, came in, “MOM! We can’t miss church!”
“I know, buddy, but you are coughing so bad, I can’t take you.”
“Well, at least promise we’ll have church at home. It’s SUNDAY!”
I have to tell you, his steadfastness made my momma heart smile.
You see, I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor and my mom’s dad was a pastor. I left “church” for a while because I had to sort out what was my set of beliefs and what was everyone else’s. There were some judgmental things and rule things I found weren’t consistent with the adult faith I was developing, but there was a whole lot I learned in those early years about the Bible and God and grace and forgiveness and finding your way that stuck with me.
I’d been fairly involved with my local neighborhood church when I had the triplets. And then my world turned upside down. First, getting out of the house was nearly impossible in those early years. Many weekends Bray would be working at the family farm and there was no way I could manage all three. Second, I worked all week long and got so little time with the babies that I simply couldn’t bear to drop them off for an hour or two. Third, we had our share of ailments during early pre-pre-K years and someone was always too sick to take so all of us stayed home.
So church attendance was sporadic at best. We had church at home though. We’d sing a kid-friendly song about God, learning simple concepts about who He is, and I’d teach a Bible story or simple verse as we learned what God has to say about sharing and kindness and giving everyone special gifts. Even our four simple house rules had Bible verses to go along with them so we could begin to talk about how our values are grounded in faith.
Around the time they turned four, we realized we could take them into church with us. It was far from perfect, but it allowed us to stay together and return to church regularly. Plus, they were significantly easier to get out of the house. When we traveled to the farm we would still do church at home, but luckily we started getting to do church at church.
This year, I decided to teach their Kindergarten Sunday School class . It’s really engaged us more. Plus, they’re learning kid lessons at kid levels. And I’m learning a lot about my own faith too. Each month, we have a “life app” that verses or stories reinforce. From perseverance to self-control to cooperation, I’ve found myself learning ways my faith needs to grow if I’m going to lead by example.
I know people have been hurt by organized religion. I know folks have seen leaders in a church do terrible, stupid things that make you think God’s got a black eye. I know many have felt judged or ostracized because they didn’t look or sound a certain way or follow a certain play book. That makes me terribly sad.
But I’d love it if you could separate God from all that. If you, like me, could find Him on your own terms. If you could investigate who HE says He is, versus how the loud talkers characterize Him.
I’m so grateful my kids are beginning to know about Him. They’re not learning a lot of rules and superior attitudes. They are learning we should build community in our front yards. They are learning we should help others who need help because God asks us to. They are learning God forgives us so we should forgive others when they mess up. They are learning they were beautifully and uniquely created by a funny and interesting and creative God.
And those things will carry them in the hard times. Those foundational beliefs will be something they can return to when they struggle or feel alone. I know that is what they’ve done for me.