Parking lot full. Squeezing my boat of a car into a spot beside the trash receptacles.
Arm full of bags, babies, and Bibles and we dash in the door to find a service starting and pews overflowing. Squeezing my load in with people we didn’t really know wasn’t a quiet, unnoticeable affair.
In the midst of the packed house youth revival that I was attending as a youth leader, I should have been rejoicing. Instead, I was focused on the work it took me personally to get there and the joy was sucked right out of me.
I needed this, though.
Some of our youth were attending. It was my responsibility to be there. That wasn’t why I was there.
I needed this.
As a mother of two toddlers, whose hands were always overfull, ears were always being cried out to, shoulders were laden down with a load too heavy to bear alone, I needed this time out of the house with other people.
In a perfect world, by my definition then, my husband wouldn’t have had to work such long hours at a back-breaking job to support us and we could have attended these services together as a family. Or, he could have kept the kids in the evening so I could have gone alone and had some me time.
Instead, I spent the entire service trying to keep my two toddlers from throwing toys at unsuspecting revival attendees, pulling my top down and exposing me in church, and distracting all those within the building from God whom they had come seeking.
I can’t tell you what was preached about that night. Can’t repeat any testimonies shared, songs sang, or blessings shared. Perhaps you too are wondering by now why I even bothered to attend. Not only did I get nothing out of the service, my children probably distracted many around us.
Exhausted, I loaded everyone into car seats, dumped all of the bags into the front passenger seat, and fell into the driver’s seat.
Lord, I don’t think I can do this. Raise two toddlers. Try to mentor youth. I don’t have the energy. I’m not making a positive influence. I’m just wearing myself out. Are you trying to tell me something here?
Discouraged, I put the car in reverse and backed into trash bins. In a parking lot full of people.
It turns out the trash was fine, my car was fine, everyone all around was fine, but I was furious.
Pulling out onto a curvy, unfamiliar highway in the dark, both kids were still laughing and cutting up. I was not finding any humor in anything that had happened this evening.
“Stop laughing right now! You two were terrible in church tonight! You know the church is God’s house. We don’t behave that way in God’s house. Your behavior caused people to see you instead of God.”
Yes, they were toddlers, but they were toddlers raised using adult vocabulary and in the church.
The laughter ceased with my angered tone.
A clear, small voice said, “The whole world is God’s house. This road is His house. You’re yelling in His house.”
The small child spoke with conviction.
“What did you say?” Unbelievable. I’m trying to correct a child and they’re going to try to correct me?
“Yeah. You’re driving on Him right now because He holds the whole world in the palm of His hand. I wonder if it tickles when we drive on His hand.”
The conversation in the backseat continued while I drove on in silence.
That building we just left wasn’t God’s house. It was a building God’s people used to meet in and share His love with others. We can’t go to His house because we’re in it all the time, and the way we behave in our car, in our house, in our shower, at our job, well, that’s how we behave in God’s house.
Did God have a message for me that night?
Yes, He did.
Children learn what they live. Don’t leave your children at home because they are too young. They are learning even when you think they aren’t listening. Don’t wait until your children are older to serve Him because you’ll have more time. You won’t. Don’t water down the message when you’re talking to children. They’re way more intelligent than we give them credit for.
I may have missed the message in the church that night, but the sermon from a toddler in a car seat is one I’ll never forget.
This post was inspired by the Write Tribe Festival of Words-3 prompt to share a personal inspiring story. You can read more inspiring stories here: