Ever since I was forced out of Children’s Church into the “Big Church” with mom, dad and all the other big kids, church has been an exercise in extreme boredom for me. I remember when I was younger, sitting in the second from the front row where all the teens sat (we figured sitting up close with our friends at least got us away from our parents, even if we were then under the watchful eye of the preacher) with my eyes fixated on the pastor as he stomped to and fro on the stage. Sometimes, I remember that I’d stare at him so long and hard that I’d actually get tunnel vision. It became a game in fact–seeing how long and hard I could stare at him without blinking.
Having been in church since I was very young, I’ve heard just about every take on every story in every chapter of the Bible. I’ve heard metaphors made out of Psalms that would make Pythagoras scratch his head. I’ve heard God’s vengeance on Sodom and Gomorrah soliloquized to the point where one could almost hear the screams of the city’s denizens as the fire rained down, and I’ve heard Jesus the Fisherman preached so much that I could almost tell you what his bait of choice was when fishing the Sea of Galilee with his buds.
You preach it, I’ve heard it, and that’s why to this day, church bores the mess outta me. But there are other reasons I go; such as for my kids.
Because we can’t seem to settle down in a church, and because I never see myself “joining” another church, MLI doesn’t have a bunch of friends at church that he likes to go play with. Previously, any attempts to make him go to children’s church so that mom and dad could watch the service without having to constantly admonish him to be quiet while also fishing crayons off the floor, were met with extreme crying and fit-pitching. But this past Sunday, I was determined to make him go to children’s church if it was the last thing I did.
We actually got there early, thanks to having started getting ready at 7 a.m. We checked the boys in and a nice lady escorted MLI and me upstairs to a “holding area” where they put a lot of kids until all the various teachers show up. As soon as we arrived at his room, he started his act:
- Hands in his mouth
- Pulling away from me
- A slowly rising whine that threatened to embarrass me in public
So, I squatted down and said, “Come here, let’s talk.”
Not quite sure what to make of this odd development that didn’t involve daddy yelling and threatening to spank him, he stopped whining and with his hand still in his mouth, came over to me.
I said, “I’m gonna tell you a little secret, but you have to PROMISE not to tell mommy ok?“
(In my head, George Strait was singing, “…a secret that my daddy said, was just between us…)
In a hushed voice, I told him, “I don’t like church either. It’s kinda boring, and it’s long and stuff. But, mommy likes for us to go and we want you to learn about Jesus and stuff, so that’s why we all go. So do me a favor, and just go in there and try and have fun and before you know it, it will be all over.”
He looked at me with those red eyes and with a bit of a sniff, he turned to face the head lady who was coming towards him, hunched over and with a cow sock-puppet on her hand. As she got near, a spooky voice emanated from the sock puppet, “I’m scared too!”
I wanted to say, “Lady, you’re not helping,” but rather, I took off running down the hall before he could change his mind and come running back to me.
Turned out, he had a great time. They ate lots of junk food, and made rice crispy treats for me and CareerMom. In fact, he was talking about how next time he didn’t want to come in big church with us.
So, mission accomplished.
If so though, why I do I feel kinda crappy about it? At the time, I thought maybe he would appreciate a little “man to man” truth–a secret that was just his and daddy’s. But now I’m not so sure. What if I just colored his religious experience for the rest of his life? What if, rather than being open to what God wants to do in his life, he’s instead just going to go through the motions to make other people happy?
I’m struggling with this, even in the face of apparent success.
What do you think? Did I help, or hurt?