Monday, September 23, 2013

Messy Monday: Schrapnel in the Sanctuary

There was a full-out war being waged during church yesterday morning, and the shot heard round the sanctuary was fired by my three-year-old daughter.

Let me preface this story with some facts pertinent to your grasping of the situation:
1. I am the praise team leader, so Sunday mornings can be pretty exhausting with the four kids and worship, and sometimes I feel like I need multi-tasking steroids to power through the service. (I would contend that most parents of little ones feel the same way.)
2. If you picture the seating of our sanctuary like a cross with the congregation seated down the middle of the tall beam and the altar at the top, our praise team "loft" is in the left cross beam section and slightly raised. Kind of like where a choir would sing or a handbell choir would play. Since our praise team pews are turned toward the center of the sanctuary, not the altar, my children are able to sit in the center pews just a few feet away and I am able to sit with them while we aren't singing.
3. I play an electric autoharp and sing as well.

A warm-up and some run-throughs and the service starts as usual. My husband welcomes the worshipers warmly and invites them to share the peace with those around them. As I don't play the first piece, I settle in to sing one of my new favorites, Take My Life. (A contemporary rendition of the hymn "Take My Life and Let it Be.")

Whether it was her middle-of-the-night excursion that put her into a more volatile mood than usual, or that she was just plain tired of asserting the independence she displayed all by her big-girl-self at Sunday school, I'll never know. But somehow the words to the first verse of our song trigger an immediate hunger, the pangs of which stab her poor tummy to tears, and that whole fifteen minutes since her last cupcake was fraught with carrying Sunday school projects and finding a seat in one of three of our usual pews, so naturally she has worked up quite an appetite that needs to be satisfied immediately. Did I mention IMMEDIATELY?

And as I am mic-ed for this song (and turning the mic off would be a bit obvious), I am forced to deal with the utterly public and nuclear meltdown transpiring before me and the entire congregation with a series of clumsy and ultimately futile gestures mixing baby sign language, mommy sign language, and dull stares by the only helpful child within eyeshot. (The eldest child politely minding her business a few pews back with some friends.) The boy  is staring at me, completely lost. I really need to learn more sign language.

I manage to catch a stray word amidst the singing and sobbing and something sounds like, "I need a snack! I can't find a snack!" I motion to check my bag (keep in mind I am still singing, and now glaring), but she insists there is no food in there. Not one crumb. (There is, and she has literally made no attempt to search its contents, but that's besides the point.) So, desperately and fully aware of the bad decision I am making, I point to the small Tuperware sitting beside my bag on the pew.

The Tuperware filled with cupcakes. The minion cupcakes our dear friend made for my son for his birthday. The minion cupcakes containing the dye that has tattooed many a little face with royal blue five o'clock shadows. "I can have a cupcake?" I shake my head wildly yes as I reach for the autoharp to begin our next song. (Grace Like Rain, my new favorite version of "Amazing Grace.")

I play and sing as my peripheral vision reveals the ruthless tearing open of the container. The invasion of little hands descending upon those pour, unsuspecting minions. Oh the carnage as minions are devoured whole, their remnants smeared on floor and pew. The only evidence of their existence: a smurf-blue lake of frosting ground into the church carpet and bits and pieces strewn down pew cushions.

Confectionary POW's

And all the while we sing, Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away. They're washed away... (No joke.)

The sacrifice is great, but I count it all worth it because the beast has been pacified until the chorus strikes her parched tongue. A scream of "WATER," and I'm back to square one...

I am painfully aware of the congregations less forgiving than ours. I hear the horror stories of harsh words spoken to struggling parents by people with a fabricated remembrance of when their children were little. Having forgotten the shame and despair that comes when you feel you have reached the end of your rope, they can't empathize with the exhaustion and feeling of powerlessness in the face of a disobedient child who knows better.

My girl knew better and she still did it. She was disciplined, but I'm not counting on her never faltering again. I love her just the same.

God chose us before the creation of the world. He knew what we would do, but He made the choice to create us.

He knew we would complain. He chose to satisfy anyway.

He knew we would wander. He chose to bring us back- even if we had to feel pain in the process.

He knew we would abuse He mouthpieces. He chose to raise them anyway.

He knew we would reject His Son, beat Him, taunt Him, yell at Him, kill Him. He still chose to send Him.

He knew we wouldn't fully "get" what our salvation truly meant while we were on this earth. He chose to let us live in that salvation and hope even now- not just after we die.

He knew we would bind ourselves to other gods, seek our own wisdom. He gave us His word, His body, His blood, as real-life tangible pieces of Himself to open our eyes to the God He is.

His sacrifice was more than just a mess made in a hasty attempt to shut us up- it was a choice. He planned it. It was messy, no doubt, but it was worth it.

Because I have a new life to celebrate today and every day, and I am full.