The house is quiet and still. It’s 6:00 am. I’ve been up for the last thirty minutes in our home office doing my final review for my sermon later that morning. I relish these moments knowing that the silence will soon be broken by the pattering of tiny feet coming down the stairs.
A few minutes later, our youngest appears in the doorway looking for a sign that it’s okay to enter. I give her a nod and she comes running. I put my Bible and notes aside as she climbs into my lap.
“Did you sleep well?” I ask.
With her head resting on my chest and thumb firmly inserted into her mouth, she gives a nod in response. While this moment is precious and peaceful, it’s the final calm before the storm that’s about to hit.
By the time everyone in the house is awake, it’s 6:20 am. That’s when Becky and I go into “game on” mode.
Sunday mornings are a frenzy of activity in our home. Between getting breakfast for the kids, battling over what clothes they will wear for the day, brushing all the knots out of all the girls’ hair, and making sure they actually put their shoes on before they walk outside, some mornings Becky and I are left with 10 minutes to get ourselves ready.
On this particular morning, Becky’s leading worship, I’m preaching, and our three young kids are extra moody, whiny, and crabby while trying to get them ready and out the door. In order to be to church on time, the entire family needs to be out of the house by 7:30.
While getting the kids ready, they change their breakfast orders multiple times and then won’t eat. They resist putting on the clothes we’ve laid out for them. And instead of putting on their shoes, they throw them across the room.
The morning is hard and stressful. When we finally get the kids strapped into their car seats, Becky and I fall into ours giving a sigh of relief, “We did it.” It’s 7:33 am.
However, as we roll down the street and exit our neighborhood, something in the car shifts. The relational temperature and mood changes from stress and exhaustion to eagerness and anticipation. Everyone, the kids included, are glad to be going to church.
For the better part of pastoring for the last decade, church has become a safe place for our family, most importantly for our kids. It’s a place where they’ve been able to be themselves.
As soon as we walk in the door, the first thing they do is shed their coats and kick off the shoes that, fifteen minutes ago, we forced them to put on. They quickly leave us behind and run to the cafe. Climbing on the counters, with wide eyes and excited taste buds, they scan the box of donuts for the one that’s just right. By this time, Becky’s already in the worship center rehearsing with the music team.
It’s an hour before our church family will begin to arrive. I leave our girls to eat their donuts while I go print a fresh copy of my sermon. My mind is racing with thoughts about my sermon, the flow of our morning services, people I need to connect with that morning, and a bunch of other logistical details.
I leave the girls for no more than five minutes. By the time I’m back they’re not where I left them. The evidence of them having been there, empty plates and juice cups and crumbs on the floor, is apparent, but they’re gone.
I clean their mess and go looking for them. I have a good idea where they’ll be.
As I approach the worship center, through the glass windows, I can see their tiny heads in the distance bobbing up and down behind the pews as they run laps around the perimeter of the room.
I open the door and lean against the door jam. And for a few minutes, I stand and soak it in. What I see warms my heart. I see Kate, Emma, and Lucy running, laughing, dancing, and singing along with their mom as she practices. As they pass me standing in the back of the room, I get a high five and a quick, “Hey dad!” with each lap. As they pass the stage in the front of the room where their mom is singing, they skip, hop, jump, and do their best ballet twirl.
You’d never guess that about thirty minutes prior an all-out family war was waging at our house. It seems like a distant memory. The two moments are such a bizarre contrast but are not at all unusual for any given Sunday morning. The sweet moments with our girls are fairly frequent around our church on a Sunday morning, and if I’m not careful, in the busyness and chaos of the morning, I’ll miss them.
While Sunday mornings can be crazy and stressful, and even though the battles of getting ready for church make me wonder if I’m failing at being a parent, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. It’s a joy to raise our family with church being such a major part of our lives, especially for our kids. They are growing up knowing they are loved by so many people.
Pretty soon, another frenzy of activity will begin. A few hundred people will pass through the doors of our church. We’ll have an incredible opportunity to love, serve, and encourage them as we begin another week.
As I stand, leaning against the door jam, a few people start to trickle in. I feel the tug of needing to go over and say good morning and welcome them to our church. But before I do, I linger just a little bit longer watching a few more twirls, hops, and jumps and I appreciate this moment, and this morning, for what it is, a gift.