“Tick-tick, tick-tick…” I could hear the clock ticking as I sat in church with my 6 rambunctious children.
I had looked forward to this all week long. Going to a church, I had never been to hear an acapella Mennonite choir sing. Here in the west it is extremely rare have this opportunity. Rare, in that it’s been years since I have heard an acapella chorus. Add to that my cousin was to be in the choir which was a once in a life-time opportunity if you live in the west and most of your family is far east. So to say I was looking forward to this week, would indeed be an understatement.
However, as we sat there waiting for the choir to sing a mere 20 minutes before starting time, I began to wonder what I was thinking. My children turned into little monsters right before my eyes. Looking back, I wonder if it was more because of their actions or because of the stark quietness compared to their noisy whispers, the stillness, in contrast to their wiggles.
We were sitting about four benches from the front in one of the most conservative Mennonite churches I had ever been to. But I knew some of these people and loved them.
When we first walked in one of my friends smiled, and gave me a friendly little wave. Excitedly, I waved back. Everywhere else I glanced I was met with sober silence. Suddenly, I felt like a chicken nugget in a box of french fries. Were these the same friendly people I had eagerly visited with at the local Mennonite store. Every whisper from my children sounded like a yell, and bickering between siblings, like a megaphone. All my most embarrassing moments no longer had the label “most”. My two oldest boys who should have known better were pinching and poking each other, and making faces. Four of my children wanted to sit beside me. This of course proved difficult, since obviously I was only blessed with two sides. I quickly put one on my lap and threatened the oldest with a stern warning.
Just as we got settled in and I was ready to sigh a deep breath of relief my youngest boy whispered loudly, “I have to go to the bathroom!”
Then beside me another loud whisper, “I do too Mommy!” Now normally, in our own church this would have been a great time to say this, before church had started, but here…well I was mortified. They loudly, and rather clumsily stumbled out of the bench with their Dad. Of course when they came back there was more bickering about where they wanted to sit. Mortified, I vowed to myself that I would be doing some serious training about bickering as soon as I got home.
“Tick, tick…” On went the clock, what?! only 5 minutes had past? By this time I had only died several deaths of mortification. Oh where is a sink hole when you need one? The minutes crept on and on with one child wanting to draw, but then not liking the colors I gave her with which to draw.
“More, More!” She demanded,
I died again, “No, mommy doesn’t have any more, ” and she had another fit, on and on it went.
“Tick-tick” on ticked the clock….finally the chorus filed in and the children were focused on the singing for a short time. I soaked in the first song letting the beauty of it get to my heart. That was about the only song I was fully able to enjoy. The rest of the time was spent wrangling kittens, on a church bench, of this quiet cathedral. The mom guilt came on strong, and my pride got a good beating. “I should be training my children better,” I thought, ” I really just need crack down and demand some better behavior from them.”
Thankfully, we got through the service without a whole lot of mortifying experiences. Then it happened. The last song was finished and the pastor was praying and again the clock ticked, and suddenly, in a moment of complete silence, the youngest sitting on my lap, chose that moment to very indiscreetly relieving herself of some gas bubbles. It was not a quiet little relief people! I suddenly lost ever ounce of my pride I wanted to giggle and cry all in one puddle, and then disappear forever. 😉
Thankfully, everyone just kind of acted like they didn’t hear it. I know they did because my dad sitting on the other end of the bench mentioned it later as we laughed out loud about it. The minister stood to say a prayer. Finally, my night of torture was over. As he finished his final “Amen”.
And then my youngest who is at this time a sweet 2 years of age, piped out a loud,”Amen!”
For the first time that evening I saw amused smiles sweep over the congregation and the chorus members. A dear lady afterward, complimented me with an encouraging word of, “Your little girl was a testimony that your family prays together.” In those kind words the embarrassing night fell off of me. I was relieved to be free of it. I enjoyed visiting with friendly faces that moments before I had felt so intimated by.
The whole thing has left me feeling a little curious about some things.
- Is this typical for a conservative church, the sober silence?
- Do people come into my own church not from my background feeling just as intimidated by it?
- If they do, what can I do to change that? I like the quiet reverence of preparing your heart for worship. However, I think a friendly smile and wave goes a long way in making people feel comfortable.
- Do I let what other people think to often dictate my parenting?
- Do I let what other people think to often dictate what I think about myself?
- What can I do to change that about myself?
As I contemplated on the night and these questions, I realized that I was proud of my children. It didn’t matter that they didn’t sit like perfect little robots on the bench. For one thing they had just sat an hour on the way here, I really should have taken them on a walk before we just walked into this quiet sanctuary. I also realized that the people there probably didn’t even notice me or only felt compassion when I felt all eyes and judgement were upon me. Perhaps judgement of others comes more through our own hearts than reality. The Lord has a lot of work to do in this mommy of 6. My children are my little teachers, and God continues to use them to smooth out my many rough edges. I was reminded how far I have to go still in my “people pleasing” vs. “God pleasing” journey, and how easy I feel shamed. There are many things to learn through a night of “mother torture”. Perhaps one day I shall 😉