One Sunday shortly after having my first baby, my husband and I slid into our seats in the back of the church. I had my newborn bundled up in his car seat beside me. I was pretty proud of us for making it there. But I wondered why it was so quiet. Everyone was seated and the pastor was in mid-sentence. A lady next to me beamed at me and said quietly, “It’s so good that you came.” I smiled back, wondering why she was so impressed. And then I heard the pastor say, “Let’s close in prayer.”
We had actually arrived an hour late. We were so sleep-deprived we forgot what time the service started. After all that effort we just turned around and went back home. But at least the lady next to us thought we tried our best, bless our hearts.
I can laugh about it now, but at the time I thought, “What are we doing? Going to church is so difficult right now. Is it worth it?”
Who We Are
Before we can talk about going to church we have to understand what it means to be the church. If you are a Christian, you are part of the people of God. It is part of your new identity in Christ. We are saved individually, but we are saved to a body. Look at the beautiful group language Peter uses in 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” This is a foreign concept to our individualistic culture. But there is so much strength and comfort in accepting our identity as the people of God, rather than simply a person of God. God chose the local church as our means of living out this identity.
Megan Hill, in the book Identity Theft , reminds us that our roles as mothers “do not eclipse our identity in the eternal family of God. As Christian women, we are the children of God (Gal. 4:6), mothers and sisters to the fellow-members of our local church (1 Tim. 5:2), and part of Christ’s beloved bride (Rev. 21:9). If ever you say to yourself, I’m the mom of three young kids! I’ll get back to church in a few years, you’ve had your identity stolen.”
Motherhood is not a season to take a break from church. It is a season to dive in deeper and draw strength from our identity as the bride of Christ. This refreshes our perspective when we’re tempted to think, “I’m too tired to get anything out of the sermon. It will throw off my baby’s nap. My kids are too distracting. There’s too much to catch up on at home.” All this might be true, but we’re there for a bigger purpose.
What We Give and What We Get
I remember one pastor saying, “When you miss church, the church misses you.” At the time I laughed and thought, “They’re not missing much. I’m a mess right now.” But the church needs our messes. Our messes put God’s grace and strength on display.
When going to church is difficult, bring the difficult with you. Pastor Scott Slayton of Chelsea Village Baptist Church, Alabama, says, “Since the church is a family, when you don’t gather with them there is an empty seat at the table. The church is a temple and you are a brick in it, so the whole structure is weaker and more vulnerable when you are not there.”
It was difficult getting my first newborn ready for church and it is still difficult getting five little boys ready and out the door. I have to tell them to look at the pastor and stop licking the hymnals. But when I see my sisters in Christ sitting around me, bouncing babies on their knees and pointing out words in their Bibles for their kids to follow along, my heart is strengthened. I look around and think, “This is real life. We’re all in this together.”
Moms, this isn’t an article to kick you when you’re down and tell you to get your act together. It’s a comforting reminder that you are part of something much bigger than your current circumstances. You’re not alone. You are part of a body, a temple, a family. You need the church and the church needs you.
So this Saturday night, set out your kids’ church clothes and put some snacks in the diaper bag. Put the Bibles by the front door. Set the alarm and make the best church-plan you can. And if all your plans fall apart, like mine often do, there’s still a seat for you at the table. There’s a place card for “Tired, late moms of littles,” and the body of Christ is blessed when that spot is filled.
Books by Sara Wallace:
“For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs”
“I have read SO many parenting books- and it seems they fall into one of two camps: practical advice or a theological perspective, and so often I felt like they didn’t apply to the little years. This book is my new favorite on the subject of discipline because Sara beautifully addresses both: the heart behind the discipline and the practical tips and how to, sharing stories and examples from her own life as a mother of 5 boys.” – Ashley.
“The Gospel-Centered Mom”
“An excellent book for moms who want to be challenged to be more like Christ in their parenting. Helpful, bright, and it comes with a pen too! I highly recommend this!” – Brandi
Grab your copy for your next personal devotional study, or do it with a group of friends!