Saturday, September 12
Children in Worship: Blessing or Burden?
No matter what service you attend at my home congregation, you will most certainly find children present for the full worship service. Tonight, mine was the child bouncing around, dropping cracker crumbs (somebody has to feed the church mice, right?) and then using those grubby little hands to share God's peace with those around him. He was also the one who was so anxious to pray the Lord's Prayer that he could often be heard asking (a little too loudly) if it was the Lord's Prayer yet several times. Mine was the little boy who spent a good part of the service drawing stories in a notebook about watering the grass, and informing me during a particularly quiet moment that the green drops were stinky sewer water. (Where does he get this stuff? Ha!) He was also the boy who, after the service was over and I questioned internally (yet again) if he could possibly have gotten anything out of it, started asking great questions the minute we got in the van.
"Did PR say the devil makes us sick?"
"If we keep fighting the devil how come he keeps coming back to life?"
"What does it mean that we don't belong in this world?"
"Why do the angels rejoice when I pray?"
"Can Jesus build buildings if He wants to?" (Okay so that one is not such a big question, but it is just so Aiden. He is obsessed with building and is always telling us what he will build when he grows up. Like hot dog restaurants and a house right next door to his mama.)
He is the boy who takes our answers and simply believes with a faith that is so pure it astounds me. Right now, there is no question in his heart that what is written in the Word is absolute truth. And God shows me over and over that there is no topic that is "too old" for my five-year-old. Sometimes I panic a little right after I read something, because I am afraid of the questions to follow. Like the time Aiden had brought his plastic pigeon to bed and then on our Bible schedule was a whole section about pigeon sacrifices. No, I am not making that up. I have learned that with the help of the Spirit I can answer tough questions at his level, sharing enough truth to satisfy without having to know everything.
Not long ago, his best buddy lost a grandparent. I don't know if the timing was coincidence, or if he overheard Matt and I talking about the family's loss, but that was when the questions about heaven started. And death. There were a couple very tough nights of tearful worry about death and losing his people. There were a couple of moments when I honestly wasn't sure I could answer one more question or survive one more mama-heart-piercing sob. Yet in time, God continued to provide strength and wisdom for me and Matt as we gently shared what we believe and Aiden was able to find peace. (Although questions about heaven are still a daily occurrence.) God also provided friends to share their wisdom about how to deal with these heart issues. I am so blessed to have people who share my faith to turn to in these times.
I know not everyone sees the benefit of immersing kids in a full "adult" Christian life. Children's Bibles leave out tough stories, churches schedule Sunday School or "children's church" during worship, and even baptism is something that is reserved for those old enough to understand it. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the occasional worship service where Aiden is at my mom's (church date night is totally a thing in our house). If I am being honest I also sometimes feel like there is a bright spotlight on our pew with the wiggly kid who looks older than he is and is not exactly focused on worship. Between my dislike of a spotlight (real or imagined) and my sinful pride that wants to have a "well-behaved" child to prove to others that we are doing things "right" there are definitely times when I question the practice of having him in worship as well. Until his sweet little voice is praying the Lord's Prayer and his sweet little hands are reaching out to share the peace of the Lord. In those moments (and the ones that follow services when the questions reveal he really IS listening) I am humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude for this amazing experience of getting to raise a child in the way of the Lord. It is definitely something I could never do alone, but it also is not something I am called to do alone. I have a community of believers to support me and the Holy Spirit to guide me. Thanks be to God for that!