by Hannah Heath
Before we had kids, going to church every week was fairly straightforward. Now with a toddler and an infant to wrangle on my own, participation in church is a different story. I admit most Saturday nights I go to bed dreading the hassle of getting there, imagining the potential triggers for tantrums, escape attempts or worse still successful escapes from the toddler, and all the other pitfalls a parent faces with young children in public.
Often I’ve wished the order of worship was rearranged so that Communion was first and everything else followed instead of the other way around. That way there would be a fighting chance that the kids would still be fully clothed and calm as we walked up to receive the Sacraments. The congregation would see us at our best, and I could slide out with the children soon after. I’d justify our absence by telling myself that I don’t want to distract the congregation with our antics; everyone else deserves to have peace and quiet throughout the liturgy. But that excuse would be a cop out.
The truth is I always feel at my worst as a parent on Sunday mornings, and I’d rather other people not see me fend off a toddler who is trying to feed me her snot while I bounce a fussing baby in the other arm. I’d rather they not see me dive under the pews for an Army-crawling escape artist.
I’d rather appear perfect in a room filled with sinners who are confessing their sins and receiving forgiveness.
After church, I get a fragile hug from an older member and a sincere smile paired with the phrase, “It’s so good to see you here today.” She doesn’t seem to notice the craziness. She just sees me, and I am reminded why every Sunday I come, even though every single Sunday I dread it. I come because “It is good, Lord, to be here.” It is good for my children to be here. It is good for the congregation for us to be here. I come because by the time I pull the kids through the double doors I am painfully aware of my need for forgiveness, my need to stand in a room filled with sinners and confess my sins and receive forgiveness.
Most Sundays we get there in time for Confession and Absolution. My 2 1/2-year-old daughter now stands beside me and says the entire Confession on her own. I never sat down to teach it to her; the act of bringing her in as part of the congregation every week has led to this. We stand, side by side, mother and daughter confessing our sins and receiving absolution; everyone can see that we need it.