I sit on the bench — always the same one. Not because it has to be, but because I learned a long time ago that I can concentrate better if I always sit at the same place. But it isn’t MY bench, or OUR bench, it’s just the place we sit when it’s available — and it ususally is.
Earlier this week, I had spoken to my neighbor about the three children coming to Sunday School. They were very interested, and it was because of their interest that I had them over on Thursday night. I felt like I needed to know them a little better, have somewhat of a relationship with them before “setting sail” on a Sunday morning. Most of my interaction has been with their Mom, and because of her willingness to give life details, I have felt like I knew these children somewhat — even though I hadn’t really had much personal time with them.
On Thursday night, we had about two and a half hours together. We played games, baked cookies and I read to them. They were hungry for hugs, very responsive to suggestions, and NOISY. And BUSY. And HUNGRY. And so incredibly precious. And they really, really wanted to go to Sunday School.
So we made arrangements to pick them up. This morning, while I finished last minute Sunday morning things, Certain Man went down the road to retrieve the children. While he was gone, I started to think about what big mess we were into now. And I thought again about this man I married — and his willingness to be inconvenienced for Jesus’ sake. Especially when it comes to children. There are a great many men out there who would be disgruntled, peevish or would even forbid the kinds of involvement that we often find ourselves in. But he has almost never been anything but supportive, encouraging, and affirming. I really do have a husband who is one in a million.
So he cheerfully went off, retrieved the three kids and came back home to load up ladies and his scatterbrained wife and we got to church on time (for a change!).
Sunday school went well. I continue to love teaching this class — which today included two of the three we had brought along. I was pretty sure that class would be okay — there is plenty of activity, moving around, things to occupy heads and hands and no one is too quiet, at least in the basement class where we meet. But then Sunday School was over, and the church family that meets at the corner of Canterbury and Carpenter Bridge Roads does not have any separate provision for children during the sermon.
So here we all were, on the bench, and Certain Man was bringing the message. I got out my Bible and notebook so I could take notes, as is my custom. I love these Sunday morning times and have a strong commitment to not only staying awake, but listening carefully enough so as to have some insights to carry with me. Except that this morning, there was no spare time for taking notes. I watched distractedly while there were stickers and notebooks and markings and whisperings and thumpings and munchings on anything that was remotely edible. From the standpoint of having extra children in the church, it was wonderful. It was an answer to my prayers. It was so exciting.
But there was something else going on in my heart. It has been many a year since I have had a row of children that I was more or less responsible for. And all through the sermon, there was a conflict waging in the battlefield of my soul. You see, I have come to enjoy my quiet bench. I like just “blending in” and having the freedom to think and pray and take notes and just be my own (selfish) self. This bench was a radical difference. And I am all for settling kids down and teaching them proper church manners and how to behave, but I also know these things take time. And the issue cannot be forced. Too often children have been made to conform to certain standards of behavior so that a church is satisfied, and the result has been temporary acceptability, but a damaged concept of what it is that God really wants of them.
And so I look at the faces of these kids, and realize that so much more is being caught than taught right now. And if I am going to be frustrated and impatient and even resentful, they are certainly going to catch that. So what do I do with this dilemma?
I don’t know. But I know that God cares about this. He loves these kids. It is no accident that they are a part of our lives in this time, in this place, in this way. And so, I intend to ask Him for the answers. For wisdom. For creative ideas in how to keep them excited and enthusiastic and COMING. And for creative ideas in harnessing the energy, directing the hearts and minds towards things eternal (they are not too young for this!) and for the patience I (and all of us in our complacency) will need. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that the children that rode to Sunday School in the Yutzy Van were somehow our “property” to maintain in the church family. The years, and some heartbreaking failures have shown me how wrong that mindset is. It’s important for there to be a family that is their primary support/contact and authority, if you will, but it is imperative that these children form relationships within the church family that they look forward to exploring and expanding and enjoying. Friendships with other children. Exchanges with trustworthy adults. All things that can help to point them to a God who wants to be an integral, vital, living part of their lives.
It’s a big order. And inconvenient. And it doesn’t feel very “comfortable” or “tidy” or even “safe.”
And that bench that has been so quiet and peaceful and somewhat orderly will just have to embrace the change.
As will the graying grandma who likes to sit there.
11 responses to “”
I have had no recent experience such as yours. Though several years ago we had a child we took to church and Sunday School.The 1st time I was well armed with crayons, markers and coloring book along with Cheerios. The child was 9 or 10. While my eagle eye was off her she colored a hymnal and also widely highlighted a Bible. Because at her age she should have known better I was inwardly very disturbed with her. But held my tongue. If she did this for her deep need for attention or for whatever reason who knows. But the next Sunday we brought her again and before church services I took her aside quietly and showed her the hymnal and the Bible and said, “Do not do this again”. I handed her a coloring book and one crayon after we were seated. She presented no further problem. I certainly understand the dilemma you are facing. I certainly admire you for this change “on your bench”.
Without folks like you, sharing your patience, love, and knowledge of God, with the little ones, there is no future for the church. We grow old, they grow up, and without them to carry on, the church can’t survive. I’ll just bet I’d have loved to have had a teacher like you, when I was small. No wonder they’ve grown to love you already!Branching off, into another thought….you mentioned ‘your’ bench. (o; I had an elderly great aunt, in our small church, years ago, that ALWAYS sat in the third pew from the back, all the way over, next to the window. One Sunday, there was to be an infant baptism, and ALL the extended family came for the occasion. Aunt Laura wasn’t there yet, when they all came in and lined up in her pew…. Would you believe!!! When Aunt Laura arrived, she told them that was her pew. They all got up, let her go ALL THE WAY to the end, by the window. I’m sure, if she’d have been younger, and her mind not so affected, she’d never have done this. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to crawl UNDER the pew I was in!!!
Sweet tale. God is blessing you.
Yes, and to not allow what “others” may think and do the best that you feel God wants you to do at a given moment. I really like what you said and it is a blessing to me at this time in my life. Thank you for sharing this.
Bless you for being inconvenienced for Jesus’ sake. I’m sure your relationship with them will make a difference in the lives of these children, even if you can not see the results now.
thanks for being willing to be inconvenienced……..people like you who were willing to invite children and love them are why I have the husband I do! Fred was one of those children that someone took the time to invite to church and to love. It made a difference for sure!
This touched me so deeply, and I am so grateful you have chosen to give up your quiet bench for a busy, sometimes noisy one. I can completely see and even feel what you mean, and am convicted that I need to be willing to give up my note-taking and absorbing yet another sermon in order to introduce someone (child or not) to the Lord and church Bible Study/preaching. Thank you for writing this!
Good for you, Mary Ann. Maybe some others will consider adding one of the children to their bench, so you would not need to be responsible for all three.
Good for you – and blessings.
“Too often children have been made to conform to certain standards of behavior so that a church is satisfied, and the result has been temporary acceptability, but a damaged concept of what it is that God really wants of them” This really spoke to me as hubby and I handle the bus minsitry at church and how my attitude can rub off on them and I need to continue building relationsips with the kids. Many blessings to you!!!
Would love to spend some time with you at that meetingplace this June.mw