Sunday Morning with Toddlers
[I]n my Southern world, and in my middle school mind’s eye, Sunday morning church-goers sit quietly in pews. Children wear pastel smocked dresses, baby blue button on shorts with knee socks, and white dress shoes. And parents give taps on shoulders to reign in the drifting toddler brains. Later, families return to their white column clad estates in which peanut butter-banana sandwiches and fruit bowls are served and are followed by peaceful naptimes. And then there was our house.
My dad, the Presbyterian pastor, woke early to put final touches on his sermon. If
we saw him, he was slicing cheese for cheese toast in the kitchen and muttering his sermon under his breath. Phrases were often repeated—each time with emphasis placed on a different word. “The Lord your God
will rescue you…” “The
Lord your God will rescue you…” “The Lord your God will rescue
you…” And then he’d retreat somewhere away from the chaos of three daughters with freewheeling minds of their own. And my mother was again reminded that she was to prepare the household for church alone
. When I was 14, my sisters were 12 and 5, and you can imagine the stimulating dialogues she often enjoyed: “Why
is my laundry not done?” (“Because we do not have a maid
.”) “Can you make a better
breakfast?” (“Eat the cheese toast or get your lazy butt in the kitchen and make breakfast yourself if you’d like to whine about it.”) And eventually—ensuing meltdowns regarding bathroom space, psychologically thrilling conversations regarding the latest budding romances at church, and whining because our lunch plans (which usually involved coming home) were boring—corral us to the minivan. The minivan cued more bickering between the sisters which often escalated to screeching and tears and lasted the entire 10 minutes to the church building. Walking into the church—plastered smiles on faces, we put drama on hold. Fast forward 24 years, and my Sunday morning with two toddlers consists of the following:
Change diapers. Pour milk cups. Make oatmeal. Serve oatmeal. Clean oatmeal off of 20 fingers and 2 faces. Scrub oatmeal off of tables, chairs, floors, and a little from plates. Change diapers. Discipline. After discipline talk. Locate clean clothes. Chase children. Wrestle them into clothing. Find clean socks. Chase children. Wrestle them into socks. Find shoes. Chase children. Wrestle them into shoes. Change diapers again. More discipline. Remembering that neither parent has showered. Parents take turn showering. Parents throw on clothing. Parents run out door and load children in car. Remember diaper bags aren’t packed. One parent runs in to pack them. The other parent runs back in to pour coffee into mugs for disheveled brains. Run back to car. You get the picture. But I am trying to stop fleeing the chaos and start filling the spaces with learning and understanding and Jesus and all the other things that happen when you give in.
And that is why in worship, my hands extend upward and my heart flies free into peace. Letting go is liberating when I let it be. And He cultivates painfully but deeply and profoundly in the midst of bedlam and sorrow and sticky floors and runny noses. This is not a stage we will pass through or something to say “no” to. And I remember that we are grown toddlers, no different to Him. We too are a frustrating mess to clean up. But His hands extend downward to where we are in our filthy, bitter-filled Sunday mornings, and He breathes life and joy in these places.
by Whitney Hale
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