Thursday, July 24, 2014

Keep Showing Up by Christie Smith

I'm the mother of five children, and now that my youngest just turned four, I feel as if I'm wandering out of a very dark forrest. I can see some light at the edge of the woods. I can even see some sort of civilization in the distance. But my eyes haven't quite adjusted to the light. And conversation with the mortals? Someday maybe, but for now I've grown accustomed to only being able to associate with people from my own world who speak my language.

Some of you may laugh at my exaggeration, but if you're a mother of "littles," then you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's something I never expected as I embarked on motherhood. And I never thought of how becoming a mother would change my church experience. First, you're basically missing in action for the first couple of months after having a baby. And when you finally make it back into the land of the living, it's a brand new way of doing church. If you manage to physically make it into the building, that doesn't mean you're going to be able to show up mentally. It's as if your newborn's attention span has now become your own. Sitting through a church service and being able to focus emotionally for worship and mentally for any sermon lasting more than five minutes is next to impossible.

Now, multiply this experience by five. Imagine the drama on Sunday mornings of getting five kids dressed and out the door on time. Even if all of us are healthy enough to go to church (because another thing they forget to tell when you have kids is that the first five years of their life they pretty much catch EVERYTHING), the chance of you actually being able to sit down in that pew and absorb anything is a miracle in and of itself. The feeding of the five thousand has nothing on the miracle of a mother being able to attend church and actually connect on any level with anyone other than the little people that seem to be superglued to her legs. 

There are so many times I ask myself, "Why am I even here?" I could stay home in pajamas watching church on tv and have a better chance of absorbing something of value. What does it matter if I actually show up to the building? Can't I meet with God anywhere at anytime? True. I have had many meaningful experiences with God at 2a.m. during those early morning feedings with one of my babies. (And still do when they get me up then because they're sick or have had a bad dream.) But I do believe it's important to keep showing up. There's value in staying connected to your church family. Being a stay-at-home mom, it's easy to become disconnected from the world around you. There is so much to do everyday just to keep your home running smoothly. But what about your heart? Mothers are so busy getting everything done, making sure everything and everyone is taken care of...getting this kid to practice and that kid to piano and making sure this one makes their doctor's appointment and then squeeze in a play date for another that needs to be involved in some sort of socializing activity. We spend every ounce of energy making sure our kids' physical and emotional needs are met, and then our husbands get home and we're supposed to make sure they're ok physically and emotionally as well. It's not that there's little left at the end of the day for our own needs. It's that we usually reach empty hours before the day is over. 

But I have to believe that my presence matters to God, even if no one else in the church cares. Hebrews 10:24-25 talks about this very thing. I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near." The Bible does not say: Don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together unless you're a mom and it's just really inconvenient, or Sunday is your only day off, or you just want to hang out at the pool, in which case you are excused because you just don't need fellowship as much as other Christians do. No, I'm thinking God had a perfectly good reason for including this in the Bible, and I don't think it was to give us one more thing to do. He knows that we need relationships, and as mothers, we may need them more than ever before in our lives. The issues that come with raising children are overwhelming. We need other mothers who have our same priorities, women we can confide in and share our struggles, fears, and concerns with. These Godly friendships not only keep us connected to people outside our own four walls, but help us sort through the overwhelming realities of motherhood that can become narrow and distorted if viewed only through our own perspective. 

And if that's not enough to keep you committed to staying connected, here are a few statistics that might motivate you. 
Studies show that if you don't go to church for a month, the odds are almost 2 to 1 that you won't go for more than a year. And think of all we pass on to our kids. One study shows that if both parents attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful in attendance; if only Dad attends regularly, 55% remain faithful; if only Mom attends regularly, 15% remain faithful; and if neither attends regularly, only 6% remain faithful.

What legacy will you leave your kids? Are you committed to demonstrating to them that going to church is important? I know there are times when you feel like you're drowning in responsibilities and commitments that are all centered around your family. Be very careful, young mother, of what qualities you are passing on. Trust me...your presence matters, so keep showing up! 

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