While Brad and I were dating, the pastors of our college ministry were faithful to teach us about God’s mission – His desire for His children to submit their lives to His leading and accept salvation and sanctification by the Spirit (my nutshell paraphrase, sorry for the mumbo jumbo). They were further faithful to teach us that God desires for us to be part of that mission for the world.
Our college ministry had a great “seeker-friendly” Sunday night service. So when Brad and I would go to church, we would separate, sitting in different places, hoping to connect with students who might need someone to reach out to them. It sounds kind of lame, but rest assured, we made other lame attempts to reach out to students during the week, too.
People who knew us often thought it was strange that we didn’t sit together. They would ask, “Are you and Brad OK? Are you fighting?” Embarrassed, we would try to explain what we were doing.
I guess I got spoiled once we were married. We knew that our ministry to others would begin extending to other marrieds, so we would sit together at church!
I took it for granted that we could drive the same car to and from church, that we could hear each other sing as we worshiped the Lord within touching distance, that we could walk up to unfamiliar faces as a couple.
Because now? Now I am a Sunday morning single parent.
Sidenote: I hope those of you who are full-time single parents (or even single parents in practice) don’t mind if I borrow that phrase for half of the day on Sunday. I absolutely have no idea how you manage what you do. And I pray for you when I think of it. I pray that God would provide people in your life to help and that your children would be “easy” on you. I don’t desire to compare myself to how difficult your role is.
When I arrive at church on Sunday mornings, I am harried. I am probably late because I have no idea how to attend church when I can’t force Samuel’s morning nap to not cut into service. And if you think he cries now while I’m in service, just imagine what it would be like if he had not slept.
I have tried everything in regards to getting to church for the whole service. I have woken myself and Samuel up early, hoping his morning nap would be over by the time church or at least the sermon starts. I have taken him to church an hour early to ward off the sleepies. I have tried letting him sleep as long as he needs to, and I have tried waking him up early from said nap. I have gone to church for as short a time as 20 minutes. I have nursed him at home and nursed him there. Either way, I.am.late.
Being late in and of itself stresses me out, but then there is the actual child handling. I have long since quit bringing my brick of a Bible to church, relying instead on the verses projected on the screen. Sometimes I wheel in a stroller thinking that will help. But at the end of the service, I’m usually carrying Samuel so he can visit with everyone (did I mention my non-crawling 9 month old is 21 pounds?), and then I’m dragging a stroller behind me with the diaper bag slung on my back. Can you imagine what I will be like with two little ones?
Every few Sundays, I teach children’s ministry to the PreK class. I have to be there early and stay late. These days are especially difficult to manage, especially when Samuel is wailing in the nursery, and I am teaching the hilarious PreK kids just praying that God will give Sam peace and bless Jenn and Karyn as they try to calm him down.
I look back on the pastor’s wives I have known who had children and wonder how they did it with such grace. Did they struggle with this like I do? Did they miss worshipping as a unit? Or did they let all bitterness go and find joy?
One morning, I was talking to my friend Jenn. Her husband Steve plays the drums most mornings at church, and their son Hudson is a year older than Samuel. Did you catch that? Steve plays most mornings, so who has Hudson? Jenn. She is not a pastor’s wife.
I said to her, “I forget that you are also a Sunday morning single parent,” and she admitted that it’s a point of contention in their home sometimes.
I started thinking about all of the other amazing people in our body who are Sunday morning single parents. At some time or another, most of us at Crossroads are. You see, in a church plant, everyone has to serve on Sunday mornings, either in set-up, children’s ministry, worship, greeting, etc.
To think I had been whining in my mind every Sunday for months about how hard it is to get to church, be at church, serve at church, and come home without my husband, and so many of our members are doing it alongside me. Wow. It must be worth it.
And it is. The vision of our church is to see every man, woman, and child in our area repeatedly hear the good news of salvation offered through Jesus Christ. Sunday morning service is a time when people are checking out God in a different way – maybe for the first time, maybe in a different setting than they’re used to, or maybe after a very long hiatus. It’s worth it to be there to connect and worship with these visitors…and my fellow Sunday morning single parents.
Oh Father, again you have humbled me. You have shown me how proud and arrogant I am to think that I am alone in my inconveniences. When I am throwing myself a pity party, help me to see the REAL truth. Open my eyes to the lies I believe that are hardening my heart against You and others. Bless my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to have stamina in the race set before us.