Little 2 is a girl who throws caution to the wind, loves adventures, and has a smile that will probably deliver her from many punishments in her life. That being said, to know she has disappointed you can completely crush her.
So as adventures would have it, today was no ordinary Sunday. Little 1 has been expressing an interest to attend 'big church' with me rather than attending his normal children's church. Little 2 isn't one to protest, as she doesn't love being most places that I am not, so last night before bed I offered to let both littles sit with me during the big people worship service. My five year old had one request: pen and paper.
The morning transpired like any other Sunday morning, a harried experience with feeding, brushing, and dressing on the forefront of the priority list, all the while in the back of my brain I'm wondering, "What was I thinking?"
Side note for those I addressed earlier... I'm the worship pastor's wife, which means it's just me and littles during the music time for this mornings adventure.
As tradition follows, we were walking in the worship center just minutes before the service would start. I gathered my flock and waddled us, heavy winter coats and all, to my normal position in the front row. I gave another quick briefing that we were going to sit quiet during the message and not squirm, and our adventure began.
Now... it should be noted that this is not the first time my kids have been in a worship service, and in all of the other times before my biggest request was of Little 1 to stop sitting when he'd been asked to stand, but I found out today would be much different. When the music started, so did the dancing. Lots and lots of 5 and 2 year old carrying on and giggling, and my anxiety heightened. The dialogue in my head went something like this:
Ok... so they are dancing... that's ok. Right?
What do you mean that's OK? This was... is... a Baptist church (isn't it?)... but there's at least Baptist people. I have to stop them. What will THEY think?
But what do I say to them?? Stop, this isn't the place for that?
What if they are a distraction?
Oh crap -- *insert Little 1's name* is in the aisle.
People are laughing...
Little 2 keeps throwing herself on the chair.
Do they think I don't have control of my kids?!!!
And the panic ensued.
I'll tell you - this is not a problem I expected to encounter today. In no way was I prepared. As my worship pastor husband was on stage singing, I was on my own to let the chaos (controlled chaos) ensue, or to reign them in and crush their fun... and possibly their spirits.
It should also be noted that this -- this music time -- has been the driving force behind Little 1 wanting to attend the big people worship service. Remember, he feels... analyzes and remembers everything.
There comes a point in parenting when you realize that you have to learn to parent your kid. Let me re-emphasize... you have to learn to parent YOUR kid... with his / her traits, thoughts, feelings, and history in mind. Ultimately -- I have been pleading, begging and storming heaven's gates on behalf of my kids for sometime, but it has been urgent for Little 1 since he's turned five. Maybe it's the Lord pressing it on my heart. Maybe it's because I know he's been asking so many questions. Either way, I knew the decision I made today during that worship service would be a decision that would stick with him... one way or the other... good or bad.
And at one point I leaned down, pulled him back from the aisle into the space in front of his chair and the words, "stand still and be quiet" ALMOST came out of my mouth. I'm telling you... it was something supernatural that stopped them, because every embarrassed fiber in my body... every bit of concern that was flooding my emotion that other people may think poorly of me, was overwhelmed with the image of a naked David dancing in the streets saying, "I'll become even more undignified than this," and my words stopped.
If there is one thing I do not want for my son to do at church, it is stand still and be quiet. There are 100's of churches that have 100's of people who are standing still and being quiet, whose lives aren't being changed, who aren't passionate about the Gospel, who aren't contributing to their body of believers and who exist only to fill a spot on Sunday morning. (I'm not saying all people who stand and be quiet are like this... but...)
I'd love to say that I mastered this parenting opportunity and my kids danced in spiritual joy, and I sang, undistracted and lifted my own heart to God, but that would be a lie.
I continued to worry about the eyes that lie behind me and the judgments being made. I continued to stress that I was not leading them well, that I was making the wrong decision, and after many attempts to control the dancing and to distinguish some invisible line that crossed from 'acceptable' dancing to 'unacceptable' dancing, I picked up Little 2 (much to her displeasure and dissatisfaction) and pulled Little 1 over to me with 'the look.'
For the remainder of the last song before the greet time Little 2 squirmed crying in my arms (heard well during the quiet parts of the song... so much for not being a distraction), and Little 1 sat crushed, pouting in his chair. And I'd stolen the joy.
The divide is GREAT on what I felt in my heart at that time. There are so many attributes of God that I long for my children to grasp and understand and to love. I want them to joy in Him and to know that HE delights in THEM. What a moment for rejoicing and dancing and celebrating! I also want them to learn a deep awe and reverence and fear for the Lord. For He is great and powerful and awesome.
And the moment happened. The moment that I realized that a beckoning Savior, the Jesus who said, "Let the little children come to me," when the disciples felt they were too much and not dignified enough, He was not harsh and feared. No! He was welcoming! The Jesus and the God that my 5 and 2 year old know of at this moment is a God who is exciting and is excited about them. That's what they are taught in children's church. That's what they are taught at preschool, and generally, that's what they are taught at home.
You know, at one point I told them, "It's okay that we dance, but this is not a time to be silly."
What an idiot. I may as well have said to them, "God doesn't want you like this, He doesn't understand that you are 5 and 2 and that silly is part of who and what you are right now," like the disciples, "you are too much. He doesn't have time for this."
Epic. mom. fail.
During the greet time, our sweet piano player came and told the kids how much she liked their dancing. Moments later a male friend, and deacon, came from across the church to tell me gently, "just let her dance, she's fine," in reference to the little girl who sat crushed, still on my hip.
They both were a God send. I needed the council. I needed the wisdom. And mostly, I needed to hear that voice reminding me, "They are not too much. I want them like this."
For the next three songs of the worship service, that's exactly what I did. I let them dance. I let them be kids. I let them offer what they had to offer in that worship service, be it childlikeness, or silliness. My children haven't had a salvation experience yet. They also haven't been schooled in what we have built to be 'church etiquette' (which most doesn't come from scripture anyway), and I know He can handle them, exactly like they are, right now. He did create them, after-all, and I'm guessing He found pleasure in their dancing.
The rest of the service went on without a hitch. The kids sat quiet and traced hands and scribbled on paper. Towards the end, Little 1 was listening, making out what he could from the pastor's message, and watching as I turned to the pages in the Bible that matched with the verses on the screen. We made it through the last song, a slow song, with no dancing (yet no instruction NOT to either), and we pulled out of the parking lot with a little boy who wanted to go again next Sunday. I call that success.
Sure, there was no conversion experience this morning (though I'm still rallying and petitioning for it), there have been no great theological questions or conversations, but knowing the children in which God has given me to parent, I'm almost certain a particular little boy will remember when his mom let him dance in the aisle, soul bared, little boy joy overflowing, and that he'll remember enough to take it with him.
You know... we are called to not conform to the patterns of this world, and that has been a prayer for my kids, that they'd stand apart, that they'd be different, and that goes for more than just at school, or at their workplace, but I'd pray that they'd even stand apart in their churches, that they would be unashamed as Paul was unashamed... that when the time is right, they'd be undignified as David was undignified, and mostly, that the excitement that they have for the THINGS of God right now (church music, reading their Bibles, playing their Bible app, talking about the Lord), would birth into excitement and intimacy that they'd have for the Lord Himself, and that excitement would carry on to make them mighty harvesters for the Kingdom of God.
May their excitement never be quenched.
May their hearts always dance for the Lord...
Even when their knees are bowed...
And may I experience that excitement in my own life.