I am a pastor and a pastor’s wife. Sundays are the one day everyone knows I work, even when they aren’t sure what I do every other day. Sunday is an important day in our week. Sometimes I seriously dislike Sundays. On Sundays my husband hurries out the door extra early while I prod a little guy to eat his breakfast a little faster and simultaneously chop carrots for the lunch that’s going in the crockpot before we leave for church. Sundays are the day I attempt to wrangle little boy cowlicks into place and actually use a hairdryer and a straighter on my own hair. They’re the one day the ironing board is used and the table is set before we leave the house.
I am convinced Sundays are also the day a child is most likely to puke on a dry clean only dress and a toddler is most likely to have a meltdown and there’s never enough time in the morning, no matter how early I set my alarm. “Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. We’re going to be late. No, you can’t wear your Captain America shirt for the third day this week. No, you may not take your obnoxiously loud Black and Decker toy nail gun to play with during the service. No, you may not watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse before we go. It’s time to leave.”
This past Sunday was no different. I was walking down the sidewalk with a massive tote bag full of snacks and children’s ministry supplies trying to cajole the little boy trailing behind who was more preoccupied with flying his paper towel roll rocket than with putting one foot in front of the other when my neighbor, dressed in his quintessentially Kiwi shorts, t-shirt, and bare feet piped in in his accent, “Good morning!”
“Ack! Where did you come from?” I thought. But my next thought startled me more. “How must this look and sound to him?” A frazzled mom, arms full, hair blowing wildly, nagging a dawdling three-year-old. And all for what?
For worship. For worship the God of the universe, the King of Kings, the Savior of my Soul.
I know as well as the next person that the ironed clothes and slicked down cowlicks don’t really matter. But if the truth were told, I make a practice of dressing nicely for other celebrations. Why wouldn’t I for this one?
And that meal I rushed to prep? The table I hurriedly set? What is that about? I’m not blindly following some unwritten law of pastoral families. Rather, I am making space to gather at the table, to break bread and share fellowship with brothers and sisters whose worlds wouldn’t collide with mine if it weren’t for the common place we call our church home.
As I prompted the little tyke further down the sidewalk on our 1 km (.62 mi) walk to church, I was suddenly captured by the image of another mother who walked to worship long ago… A mother who had a much further walk from mine as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem…. A mother whose boy, a few years older than mine, may have been equally distracted by rocks and leaves… A mother who had to prepare several days’ worth of food (not just a meal)… A mother whose feet were likely dusty…. A mother whose hair may have been a sweaty under the head covering she wore as she traversed the rocky path from her village to worship in the temple.
That mother knew the importance of worship. It was important enough to travel 103 km (63 miles)—100 times as far as my walk—with her boy in tow. It was important enough to go through all of the necessary preparations that entailed because she was going to worship the God of the Universe, the very God who called her, had chosen to use her, and had spoken her child’s very life into her womb.
Maybe some of the preparations were rushed. Maybe some of the food was wrapped up in the last minute. Maybe she had forgotten something. Maybe she had to remind a child or two not to run too far ahead or lag too far behind. Maybe she felt a little tired from all the getting ready. I’m betting that she didn’t forget why.
I am guessing that her neighbors knew what she was up to. I have a feeling that as they watched her leave her house, they saw a woman who lived with intention and purpose and peace, a woman who patterned her life around the worship of Jehovah. Truthfully, I hope that’s what my neighbor saw on Sunday morning. You see, the reason I dislike Sundays really has nothing to do with the day itself. It has a whole lot to do with my tendency to forget why I do what I do. Too often I forget what a privilege it is to get my household ready to celebrate and to worship and to fellowship. I have a tendency to forget what we’re getting ready for in the first place. Instead, I fall prey to the temptation to be rushed and flustered and aggravated at the morning’s demands or that my little person isn’t moving quickly enough.
I am making a commitment, however. I am committing to remember that any opportunity I have for corporate worship and table fellowship are incredible gifts. They are occasions worth more preparation than I would give to a birthday party. They are blessed privileges I am given every single week. That makes it more than worth all of the early alarm clocks and ironing and cowlick taming in the world.