Today I returned to church after a long absence. A bumpy path in life combined with conflicting schedules has made it difficult to attend. We made a brief appearance out of hiding in December for the Christmas pageant, primarily because my 8-year-old daughter begged to be able to take part. Knowing how important it was to her I couldn’t turn her down – what on earth would I have said? “No, honey, you can’t participate in celebrating the birth of Jesus because Mom’s too busy and needs to sleep in?”
But then after the pageant passed, I was off the wagon again. Soccer games most Sunday mornings and pure exhaustion and desire to not leave the house the rest. Even Christmas Eve and Easter went without formal observation in church.
I know in our day and age it’s not uncommon to NOT attend church. In fact I’m sure there are plenty of lovely, high-achieving families who might not even belong to a church, temple, mosque, or other organized place of worship. It’s not often the center of a community anymore like it used to be, nor is tending to the spirit as central to our daily lives. It’s so easy for the minutia of our daily and weekly schedules to push it off the plate. It’s one less thing to do, hours of life “reclaimed.”
The main problem with this premise is this: most of the time we don’t “reclaim” those hours at all.
The fact of the matter is that usually something else claims that time before we can – a game schedule, a sink full of dishes, the endless pile of laundry, the TV.
Sure, sometimes I managed to carve out some time for quiet meditation, prayer, and journaling, but not even close to always. And since my life is starting to show signs of evening out a bit in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been starting to hear that call in my heart to return. To practice. To honor time.
So when I saw that that this particular Sunday was Sunday School Sunday AND that third graders would be receiving their Bibles, I decided we needed to attend. You see, I still have my third grade Bible. It’s the one that’s stuck with me move after move through college and ever after. It’s the one that’s still in my nightstand. And the one that still has that special something that the Bible versions on my newfangled Kindle will just never have.
My daughter’s in third grade this year. I couldn’t let her miss out on this.
So, a little sheepishly, I contacted our Christian Ed Director. (Who, by the way, just might be an angel on earth.) She assured me that the fact my girls did not really attend Sunday school all year would not in the least exclude them from participating in Sunday School Sunday. And not just that – she gave my third grader not one but TWO speaking parts in the service – as part of the “drama” and the benediction (more on that later).
The service was outdoors at a local park. In God’s sanctuary. The day was beautiful – couldn’t have been more perfect weather. And the service was joyful, with the children leading it in all ways. Watching my daughter go up for her Bible when her name was called brought tears to my eyes. I never expected to feel so emotional. I think it was the realization that she was growing up, and that in some ways she is following my own footsteps – slowly stepping into faith. I know for me at her age I didn’t feel it quite as deeply as I do now, but that’s all part of the faith journey. We grow into it at our own pace, feeling it and believing at those times in our life where we need faith most. As a third grader with a brand new Bible, I know she knows God is there. And feels His love. But her faith is young as she is. Seeing her step forward made me realize how far I’VE come. And how thankful I am.
Now back to that benediction, my daughter’s part was to tell a short story. It went something like this. A young boy was out flying a kite. An elderly gentleman asked what he was doing. “Flying a kite.” But not seeing a kite in the sky he said, “I don’t see any kite, how do you know it’s there?”
“Because I can feel the tug.”
Yes, I felt the tug. [Cue misty eyes.]