There are times when I am just a teensy bit jealous of my twenty-year-old self. That girl didn’t know Jesus and would lie about, all lazy and lost, on Sundays, reading the paper and eating French toast and not getting out of my pajamas until at least eleven.
Now, Sunday means getting up at 7 a.m. and finding clothes that fit, and finding clothes, also, for two young boys, and feeding them cold cereal. It means arguing in the car, and shoes that pinch, and feeling tired and not wanting to stand during the worship songs.
Sundays in the old heading-straight-to-hell days meant long walks with the dog and then maybe a movie and lots of lolling about. These memories seem to be tinged with a warm nostalgia for me, like the dreamy recollections of a first boyfriend.
Now, Sundays mean trying to talk to 14 people at once, and then, trying to figure out what any of those conversations were about. Also, it’s never really knowing where my children are. They disappear like wafts of disobedient smoke after every Sunday service. It’s tradition.
It also means watching my children loudly smack their lips after drinking the communion grape juice like it’s snack time. It means dealing with furtive bickering over who gets to sign the attendance registrar. It means whacking the husband every four minutes or so because he keeps closing his eyes. He says he’s praying, but I don’t believe it.
That’s when I find myself staring needfully at my church, like I want it to ask me to prom. Church, surely, is going make me feel all warm and tingly. But there are the other times – when I walk to my car after church and I want to break up. I want to stand in front of it and say, “It’s not you, Church. It’s me.”
Alas, it really is me. As so often happens with things that I dislike, I’m the problem here. It’s easier, of course, to find the failure in all the extraneous details, like the music, or all that endless sitting and standing.
I spend my whole week busy as any mom of two boys can be. Jesus and I often pass each other in the halls, and I smile and nod, and he asks to steal a minute, but I apologize profusely because it’s time to take the boys to baseball or library time or make them a snack or do 13 loads of laundry. I halfheartedly wave at Jesus and tell him, “Let’s get together! Soon! Love you!”
And then, Sunday comes. Poor Sunday. It really has a lot of pressure put on it, because I seem to have a lot of feelings about it. And I don’t have a lot of time, so church better do something about all these feelings while I’m in there.
Perhaps you could see this coming, but church sometimes fails to live up to my expectations.
First of all, church needs to settle down and focus on me. There’s too many distractions. The talking, the shaking of hands, and all the children all over the place. I swear, I haven’t heard a sermon for eight years. Doesn’t church understand?
And, sometimes, church seems all stand-offish, like I keep trying to figure out what it’s thinking, and it won’t tell me. This happens most often when I look around and the ladies next to me seem serene, and I’m not. Did church tell them something behind my back?
And then there’s the times when church seems all needy and dependent. It’s always asking me to help teach the four-year-old class, or make a casserole, or give it cash. That’s just clingy.
I know. It’s all very seventh grade dating kind of maturity level we’re talking here. I know my church isn’t supposed to be my “You complete me” rush of spirituality to carry me through the rest of the week. But, sometimes I forget that feelings do not get to be in charge of my faith.
Forgetfulness is a symptom of being too busy or too distracted (or old, my kids would try to add). I forget that church is not a concession stand, divvying out happy, shiny feelings once a week.
I’ll remind myself of that the next time I’m sitting in a church service, and my eight-year-old announces loudly when our pastor finishes a particularly detailed prayer “NOW is he done?”
But pajamas and French toast sure sound good about then.