I pull into our church parking lot (miraculously on time) and park in the space marked “Preschoolers with One Parent.” I pull out the stroller and load it with two diaper bags, my purse, and a thermos of (already cold) coffee. I strategize which child to unbuckle first based on who is most likely to run out into the busy lot, then began unloading my children—oldest child, baby, then middle child. The short walk to the church entrance is interrupted by at least two tantrums and one skinned knee. By the time we enter the doors, I have sweat stains in the armpits of my cotton dress. We are no longer on time.
My husband had his monthly drill with the Army Reserves, so it was my first time going to church solo with three children. The morning had been a battle. Managing my preschool daughter’s big emotions about moving up to a new class. Wrestling dress shoes onto my toddler son multiple times. Worrying when my baby girl would be hungry and if I would have to leave service to feed her.
By the time I dropped them off to their respective classes, I arrived fifteen minutes late to my own. I slipped into a seat in the back, “Is this even worth it?” I wondered, “It would have been so much easier to watch the church service from the couch at home.”
My mind wanders to the long pandemic year we spent participating in church from our taupe sectional sofa. We didn’t have to wake up at a certain time. I could stay in my spit-up stained pajamas. No one fought me when I tried to put them in shoes. We kept a box of goldfish next to our Bibles on the coffee table. I must admit there was a simplicity to it.
Yet I also remember changing blow out diapers in the middle of my favorite hymn and managing toddler tantrums as soon as the sermon started. I remember cursing my phone for not casting the service to the screen and wanting to get through just one worship song without another plea for a snack. Every Sunday at noon we would click off our television and still feel like something was missing. We had sung the songs and listened to the message, yet we didn’t feel nourished. While we had “attended” church, we knew our Sunday mornings lacked something.
God created the world in six days, declaring each grain of sand and star in the sky, “good.” His grand finale was a creature made in his own image—the man whom he declared was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He gave Adam food to eat, work to do, and unrestricted access to his very own presence. Yet something was missing, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone’” (Genesis 2:18, emphasis mine).
God hadn’t found a deficiency in his creation. Rather, because he made humanity in his image—a triune God whose very nature is characterized by loving fellowship—we are not complete without one another. It is not good for us to work, play, and worship alone. God gave man another person so he could fully enjoy God’s presence, purpose, and provision.
Being a part of God’s family is not a solo endeavor. Church hurt, spiritual trauma, and hard seasons (even a global pandemic) may keep us away from the physical presence of God’s people for a time. Yet the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
While there will be times the Lord may keep us at home on Sundays, there is something sweeter about gathering with other believers. Church attendance should never be a weapon for legalistic shame, yet worldly ideals of individualism often keep us isolated in our spiritual journey.
Watching church from home may be more convenient in this season of little children with their incessant need for snacks and naps. Yet I believe God’s pronouncement that it is not good for me to be alone in my Christian walk. He has given me a helper—our local church, the body of Christ.
It’s an act of faith for me to show up solo with three kids in tow on Sunday mornings. I don’t always remember what we talked about in our small group or what passage our pastor preached. I may spend half the time in the lobby bouncing a baby, and my toddler son may throw a full-on meltdown as we leave.
Yet, I can trust that God has deemed even this weary act of worship “good.” Maybe church isn’t about what I “get out of it.” Maybe it’s about each member of the body of Christ showing up weak and needy. Maybe it’s about collectively loving and encouraging one another. Maybe it’s about admitting it is not good for us to walk our Christian journey alone.
Last week, I once again pulled into the church parking lot with my three children by myself. A friend from our class saw my struggle and offered to carry bags for us into the church. The preschool director helped me wrangle name stickers onto my older two. A friend held my baby so I could focus on the sermon rather than the drool dripping down my skirt. I still pulled out of the church parking lot exhausted, yet my weary soul felt a new encouragement.
Going to church will always be hard in this season of littles, but I can endure it—even enjoy it—with the help of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “With a Little Help”.