Before I had kids I spent a lot of effort making Sundays special.
I wore my church dress all day, I didn’t watch TV and I only read gospel-themed books. I was a young adult with a still-kind-of-new personal testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and I wanted to honor that with an especially obedient life. During church I not only paid attention, but also took notes on what I learned and basked in the spirit that was in the meeting.
All that changed when I had kids.
For awhile I still tried writing notes in my journal, but it was pretty much impossible with them throwing things into the pews ahead or inquiring as to what body parts the other churchgoers had. I started to spend most of church out in the hallway (or even outside the building) trying to get a baby to go to sleep or a toddler to stop throwing a fit. I was bitter because I felt like The Lord wanted me to start a family, but also to keep the Sabbath day holy, and I just couldn’t see how to do both at once. I hadn’t yet realized that obedience and faithfulness can take different forms.
For many years I had a deep and abiding hatred toward Sundays. In fact, I hated them so much that I would even hate Saturday nights because all I could think about was how it was almost Sunday. Then the guilt would follow because the Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest and a time to worship God and who wants to admit they aren’t enjoying worshiping God (and I certainly wasn’t resting)? Church with kids seemed like more work than it was worth, and all this was intensified by the fact that I was also teaching children in primary at church. I struggled with my kids at home all week and then I struggled with my kids for the first part of church and then I struggled with my own and other people’s kids for the rest of church. It was positively exhausting.
But then that changed too.
A couple of years ago I discovered that I didn’t hate Sundays anymore. My kids were older and could sit (relatively) quietly so I could pay attention, and I hadn’t been working in primary so I’d been going to my adult meetings again. I still didn’t take many notes, but I listened and fellowshipped and enjoyed. I was actually excited for Sundays. Going to church was filling me up instead of depleting me, and that hadn’t happened in a very long time.
And then things changed again.
Last Sunday I woke up and thought I might be coming down with a cold and my foot was hurting and I was so incredibly tired that I thought, I just do not have it in me to struggle with BB at church today. Then that thought led to other thoughts, like how nothing in this world is forever. Aside from the things we do believe are eternal like families and baptism and the Atonement and stuff, everything is constantly changing. No stage of life lasts forever, no situation is permanent, no person stays the same their whole life, and no trial is never-ending.
This gave me a lot of hope and comfort because right now church is back to being a fight. It’s a constant struggle to keep BB in the pew long enough to take the sacrament and quiet enough to allow others to have a few minutes of peace. The older kids block the edges of the pew with their feet and I bribe BB with toys and snacks. Several times he makes a break for it and I have to chase him down and bring him back. Once the sacrament is over though, the very next time he bolts down the aisle I just scoop him up and head right out the door. There he bounces himself off of the couches in the foyer and bounces the basketballs in the gym and bounces into people in the hall until I finally give up and take him home.
We have people in our congregation who moved in months ago that I still haven’t met because I always leave early. It’s starting to feel like i don’t belong anymore. But I keep going every week for awhile anyway because I still get a little bit out of it, my older kids need that habit in their lives, and someday things will change again. When they do I want to be there, ready to actually listen to the speakers, talk to some people and maybe even take a couple of notes.
Until then, I’ll be out in the hall where I’ll be following a bouncing toddler who doesn’t quite get the note-taking thing yet.
But maybe someday that will change too.