Ready for Church?
“Ready for church?”
It’s a silly question, really, and to be honest, I’m not sure why I asked. I gaze upon my two small daughters as they shove pancakes into their mouths, the stringy syrup striping their pajamas. Cheeks puffed with pastries, they shake their heads.
I run through the mental checklist: Clean the table. Clean the kids. Dress the kids. Do their hair. Get myself ready. Get out the door.
I take a quick glance at the clock and do the math. Ten minutes. We have to accomplish all of that in ten minutes.
Anxiety stabs me in the gut. “Time to get dressed! It’s urgent! Go, go, go!”
They scurry from the table, fiddling with everything they can on the way to their rooms. Even from a distance, I see how their hands stick to whatever they touch, and hear the pop as they pry their syrupy fingers from their plate. And their toys. And the walls.
Wipe down the whole house, I mentally add to the to-do list.
My husband takes the baby, and I hurry to the bedroom to throw on my Sunday best. After slapping some makeup on my face, I scramble back to my daughters’ room to find them swinging from their bunk beds. Naked.
“Why aren’t you dressed?!”
They point to the closet where their dresses hang. “We couldn’t reach.”
I glance down at my watch. Two minutes. With a little luck and a lot of Jesus, we could do this.
The girls choose their dresses and I stuff them in, zip them up, then shoo them out the door and into the van. In those two minutes, my husband has also managed—by some miracle of his own—to dress himself, dress the baby, fill a bag with Cheerios, and meet us in the garage.
Quickly, we throw the girls into their carseats and fasten the buckles. Then we’re off. As we pull out of the driveway, my husband and I sigh deeply. Just like we do every Sunday.
At church, we pile into our normal seats in the front row. We enjoy the clear view. The few distractions. The public humiliation.
“Mom, I’m hungry,” says my four-year-old.
“What? You just ate breakfast.”
“But I’m still hungry. Can I have a snack?”
I grab the bulging bag of Cheerios—the one my husband filled before we left home—and hand it to her.
Then we’re instructed to greet our neighbors. Which we do.
Then comes the music. Which we sing.
Then an hour of stillness. Which we can’t do to save our souls.
Almost immediately, my daughter drops the snack bag, sending 8,000 tiny Os sprawled all over the floor. My two-year-old, who’s already down there crawling under the pews, picks them up and shovels them into her mouth. I bend over to help and my infant son cries out for milk. I sit back up, swing my nursing cover over my head, and expose myself beneath it so he can eat.
We’ve already caused a scene. People are looking. I can feel their gazes smothering the back of my neck. I have no idea what the priest is saying. All I know is that I’m sweating. And if my baby yanks the blanket (like he’s been known to do), the entire congregation will get to see more than just Jesus’s body today.
My insides squirm more than my active toddlers. “Do you SEE what I go through to bring my kids to Mass?” I silently whine to God. “Do you see everything I’m doing to be here??”
“Really?” The word—definitely not my own—flashes through my mind, saturated with sarcasm and jest. “I went through some stuff to be here, too…”
In one swift, sobering moment, Jesus Himself reminded me that my biggest inconveniences are merely that—inconveniences. Nothing painful (save for the few right hooks to the nose or cheek when my husband and I pass around small children.) But what I go through—these hardships I can hardly bear—are nothing compared to the absolute agony and misery that Jesus willingly endured. All so He could be here and live up to who He truly is.
Immanuel. God with us.
What about you?
What cross of yours makes it difficult to get to church? And will you choose to bear it to meet Him there?