by Pastor Dan Miller
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.
It is high time tribute was given to a group of unsung heroes. It is time you were honored as the true warriors you are. You are the parents who faithfully transport little bodies with you to a house of worship week after grueling week.
By “little bodies” I do not refer to children capable of dressing, bathing, and wiping themselves. I do not refer to children whose eating habits resemble that of Homo sapiens. Parents of such “big kids” have it easy—at least the physical part.
I speak rather of those who face not only the daunting task of getting themselves to church on time, but who must also dress, change, feed, bathe, carry, and cajole young children to join them each week. For you, attending church is easy; getting to church comprises your own weekly episode of Mission Impossible.
You have come to realize the uncanny relationship between getting children to church on a Sunday morning and the world as you know it falling apart at the seams. Prior to parenthood, I used to scoff at those who applied the “devil-made-me-do-it” excuse to the actions of their children. I scoff no more!
My initiation into this fraternity came innocently enough on a Wednesday night some years ago. As an enthusiastic young father, I was doing my part and changing my son’s diaper just minutes before we absolutely had to leave for our mid-week prayer service. As I pulled off the old and got set to put on the new, I stood before the changing table perpendicular to my reclining progeny, blissfully ignorant of the effects cool air tends to have on infant bladders.
A moment later, as I frantically toweled urine off my face and sponged it out of my left ear orifice, I wondered how such a disaster could possibly take place at such a singularly inopportune moment. I had not come to learn that the word “inopportune” is inextricably linked to the excretive functions of children in the context of appointment keeping—“Rookie!”
You know the routine. Somehow, mysteriously to be sure, one of the pair of dress shoes that everyone tripped over for much of the preceding week has disappeared into thin air. I mean, it has vanished. Gone. Its only hope is to be unearthed by archaeologists in a future civilization.
An alternative pair of shoes is found. “Sneakers will just have to do; we are going to be late again.” You take off the shoe whose mate is lost, tie on the first shoe of the alternative pair, then grab its mate only to discover that the laces are in a Gordian knot! In anxious frustration you finally succeed in untying the knot at the very moment someone discovers the originally missing dress shoe in a potted plant! Off come the sneakers.
And just think, within the hour a clueless pastor is going to suggest that this very brain of yours concentrate on the doctrine of ecclesiology as developed in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians! Might not such a radical shift of mental gears ruin one’s cerebral transmission?
Potty trainers present unique challenges. After what seems like hours of hard labor, your little one finally stands at the door virtually immobilized by thermal hat, coat, gloves, and boots. “Only two minutes behind, I think we can make it, I think we can make it,” you mutter under your breath. Then, just as you approach the door to leave, your little insulated statue announces with muffled voice that he must “powder his nose”—and quick! Off come three-quarters of the clothes you have just expended three zillion calories to put on.
Finally, your little enthroned trainer is finished, redressed, and stood back on his feet again—only to realize that in the confusion, little sister has tested the limits of her diaper and found it lacking. Frantic now, the messy one is rushed to the changing table while the thermal-clad statue topples over, unable to rise but quite capable of raising the roof!
By the time you reach church, you’ve been through war. You may even hear a little voice in your weary head that whispers, “Why on earth do you do this? The kids will remember little or nothing of these days, and you are way too stressed out to benefit yourself. Just stay home next week!”
If you are a parent who fights this war, permit me to commend your heroic efforts and to offer a few words of encouragement. First, I encourage you to remember that your efforts to get to church—despite the challenges little ones present—witness to what is really important to you. There are few things that test your resolve like children, and nearly everything about children militates against weekly church attendance.
But remember that little ones keep us from doing nothing we deem absolutely essential. In fact, unlike parents with older children (who presumably benefit more directly from the ministry of a church), you who haul very little children to church with you week-in and week-out attest directly to your commitment to seek God. You do not attend church because of its particular benefit to your children—not yet. You do not attend church because it is convenient. You attend (I trust) because you desire to know God and to worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24; Heb. 10:24-25). I commend your commitment.
Second, I laud you for deciding for your children that they will be in church. We do not permit our young children to “decide” whether or not they will play on a busy street. We do not allow them to “decide” if they will steal a candy bar from the grocery store. We are not even permitted to grant them the decision to renege on an elementary education. And I applaud those parents who realize that young children are similarly not capable of “deciding” whether or not they should receive a spiritual heritage.
Children simply do not posses the native capacity to insightfully judge the importance of church life in the nurture of an adolescent. Such insight must be provided for children by parents who love their kids enough to say, “We are going to church” (Eph. 6:1-4).
Third, never forget that you are, even now, sowing seeds that may well bear rich spiritual fruit in the lives of your children someday. Remember that many important lessons are taught to our children in the mundane consistency of what we keep on doing against the odds (Aristotle identified this as the vital character building enterprise of “habituation”). It can prove exasperating to get young children to church each week, but as you do, never forget God’s promise: “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).
Take heart, O thou warriors of the little-people wars! The battle belongs not to the faint of heart. Be strong and never doubt that each battle is worthy of your heroic efforts because this war is a just war. And having fought it nobly, may the next generation rise up and call you blessed (Prov. 31:28).
|Dan Miller has served as senior pastor of Eden Baptist Church (Savage, MN) since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (Owatonna, MN) with a B.S. degree in 1984. His graduate degrees include an M.A. in History from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He is nearing completion of D.Min. studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Dan is married to Beth, and the Lord has blessed them with four children.