It is Sunday morning. If I haven’t repented by the time I get our crew in the van, I am sure to be repentant by the time worship is over.
The music starts. My husband and I and our three boys stand to join with the church in praise and worship. Our younger daughters are in nursery.
Our boys stand watching the singers for a short time, then at the words on the screen above. They can read and they have heard the songs many times, yet often they do not sing along. In fact, I usually do not hear them singing the songs until hours or days later as they make their rounds around our home.
Then it starts. Our five year-old turns from facing the altar. He hugs me and rubs on my big, pregnant belly. I hug him back and smile, then gently turn him around trying to refocus his attention to worship.
Our seven year-old holds the chair in front of him, and starts his anxious wiggle. He is now pulling on the chair in front of him, attempting to unlock the connecting chairs. I gently pull his hands down. He turns, lowers his head and sits in the chair behind me.
I close my eyes and for a few moments I focus all my thoughts on the Lord and the words I am singing. I can feel my heart softening and shifting as the music ministers to my soul.
Then, Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. A sound breaks through the melody around me. He has grabbed my key ring holder and the sound of him repeatedly opening and closing it seems to echo through the building. I take it away. I put it in my purse. His forehead wrinkles. I gently pull him up to join me in standing and worshipping. He stands. He touches my arm. Over and over and over again. Our five year-old sees and follows suit. He reaches for my hair and runs his fingers through my hair. Again and again and again. I turn them both gently to the altar.
Our seven year-old sits again and now it is on to the laces. He puts his feet up on the chair and quickly unties his shoes. I whisper, “Put your feet down.” He whispers, “My shoes need tied.” He ties them and puts his feet down and then back up on to his seat. He unties his laces again and then reties them. He sits, feet still up, and now knees spread in an awkward and inappropriate slouching squat. I stop singing. I lean over and whisper, “Sit up. Put your feet down.” He sits up. He drops his feet, eyes now wandering, searching for what to do next.
And in that moment, I battle with myself. Part of me is greatly irritated, not wanting to be touched any more or further distracted. I want to be like the other adults in the room that can close their eyes for thirty minutes straight and focus on the Lord without concern as to who is around them or what disaster might happen behind them once they reopen their eyes.
The other part of me knows full well that is not the season we are in right now. In that moment I can see clearly my selfish heart. I ask the Lord to forgive me and remind me that each pull, each touch, each click, each untied lace is a gift to be treasured. For in no time at all the constant touches, the pulling, the hugs, the sound of clicks and the sight of wiggly feet and untied laces, will be a distant memory in the past. And for some parents, those gifts have been returned to the Lord in what feels like all too soon.
And I consider, as we as a church have gathered, longing for a touch from God, here I am I being touched over and over and over again by little hands that He has made and yet in my selfishness I turn them away. As we wait for a word, a sound from above, I hear constant clicking, like the continual gentle knocking of the Lord upon our heart. I attempt to silence it. And as we, as a church, seek the Lord on what steps to take next, I watch a little child that continues to untie and tie his shoes, challenging me to consider my own actions, some that lead me closer to walking with the Lord and others that only slow me down.
And while my children are visibly distracted and not focused on the Lord, I cannot help but consider my own heart. There have been many times that I have stood still and sung along, but truly, to the Lord, I surely appeared as a child, turning from the altar, eyes wondering, looking for the next thing to do, with no words truly coming from my heart. And somehow, in those moments, Jesus still loves me and treasures the gift that I am and that is what matters most.