There’s a video circulating today of a pastor disrupting the service over the noise of a babbling baby. I won’t perpetuate the gossip in sharing more. However, this deeply wounded my heart and the hearts of moms old and young everywhere. While I don’t know the momma in the situation, I have walked her walk, as so many of us have. I thought it best to share my heart in a open letter to the Church. Not a specific church but the Church that is made up of brothers and sisters across the country and beyond.
It’s me again, the exhausted momma with the pile of kids in tow, trying to hide as we not so quietly slip into the back row, ten minutes late. Again. I know I should have been here earlier to check in my littles and grab a cup of coffee but you see my eleven year old accidentally burned the bagels, my eight year old’s shoe was lost behind the the couch, and the three year old? Why yes, yes he is wearing Batman pajamas. It was a battle too great for me to fight and honestly, we’re all lucky he’s even wearing pants today!
I gathered everyone in the car by myself because my husband went to church early to teach Sunday school. I had to buckle in all the car seats, run back in for the forgotten Bible, run in again for a soppy cup. Then as soon as I got behind the wheel, my nose alerted me that the baby needed a change. Again.
As I cleaned him up with a fresh diaper (and pants), all I could think about was that this past week was so hard. I was running on empty and I had been waiting desperately for this day. Every ounce of my soul longed to come into church and corporately enter into worship with my church family. Too often my alone time with God is frail because this stage of life is HARD. My soul, my heart, and even my body craved to be surrounded by my brothers and sisters, submerged by the saints worshiping together, and the peace that Sunday services bring.
As we crept into the back, I had to strategically decide how I was going to get each kid to their specific classroom. After a potty break and a half eaten banana, I finally had everyone where they should be. Everyone, that is, except for the baby. I tried to hand him over to the nursery worker who was eager to love on him, but his eyes puddled and pleaded. He gripped my shirt as he had done for the past several months since entering a clingy phase. They tried to convince me to let him cry but the very thought of it broke my heart. I knew then that he needed connection, he needed his momma. Yes, it would be easier for him to come with me. So much for a few moments of kid-free time in the House of the Lord!
As the last song played, I wearily tried to find a seat closest to the back but those were all taken. Baby and I made our way to a middle row, some faces smiling, others not so much.
Finally I was there, the place I had looked forward to all week. Now I could find peace. At that very moment baby let out a cry to be fed. Should I make a scene and leave to the cry room and nurse? Will I offend the person next to me if I feed my baby here? As inconspicuous as possible, I chose to stay and feed my baby, not daring to look around for disapproving faces.
We made it through announcements and offering while baby was content. Too content, really. He blew bubbles at the lady behind us, he tried to grab the Bible of the man next to us and discovered that his sweet little voice makes an echo in the big room.
Up we went to walk in the back. I had already missed last week since my six year old was sick. It wasn’t that I wanted to stay in the room, I NEEDED to stay in the room with my family. I was desperate for connection.
Sooner rather than later, the usher led me to a small room where the service is piped in. The weight of being an outsider sat heavily upon my heart. I could have easily tuned into a live stream service this morning, but I needed more. After all, the church is more than a sermon on a screen, isn’t it?
Motherhood is already lonely. It is a time of pure exhaustion and often spiritual anemia. Mothers of young children are in desperate need for the church to come along side them and walk with them, rather than pushing them aside. We need to meet parents and children where they are at, expecting, that not every child or parent will connect with the available family ministry programs.
So often we hear how families no longer attend church and I have to wonder if we, with our glares of disapproval when a baby cries, are contributing more than we realize to the statistics. How can we respond better and be proactive, when a three year old would rather snuggle on his papa’s lap, or when the five year old with SPD cannot physically tolerate the loud video in the children’s ministry?
Church, how can we be the church to our young families as they are in their most taxing and challenging phase of life?
I get that the pastor needs to focus while he preaches. I get that those sitting need to hear the words. But I also get that the momma walking her adventurous two year old in the hallway maybe needs the word the most!
We have done an incredible job welcoming people with coffee, safely checking in children to classrooms, and ensuring the volume is just right for the old and the young. But what about the new momma, whose baby nurses every hour, or the four year old that wants to be just like momma, even to sit through the service with her?
Church, how are we responding to those most vulnerable?
I don’t have all the answers and frankly, different bodies will have different solutions. Just please don’t forget that momma's heart as you lead her out of the sanctuary into isolation.
Signed with my rawest sincerity,
The mom with the kid whose whisper can be heard by the drummer and really can’t get away with the dry shampoo like she thinks she can.