The complaining starts early around my house on Saturday night as we begin laying out clothes. Little voices start chiming in with their opinions as they bring me small cotton shirts that need pressing for the next day’s services.
“Mooommmm do I hafta go?”
“Can’t I just staaaay home?”
“Church is sooooo boring.”
I have heard all the versions of these complaints before. It is my third child’s turn at the variations, and bless his blue eyes, he is no innovator of phrases. I turn him toward the shower and give him the same response I gave his older sisters, “We go to worship. We go because God loved us and Christ died for us. We go because it is the least we can do for the Father.”
But for some reason these small explanations do not seem enough anymore. Although my boy does not know or notice the difference, I do. As he heads down the hall dragging his feet behind him in the well-known gait of the bested child, I lay the first plaid shirt sleeve parallel to the edge of the ironing board, running that hot iron straight while pulling the cuff taught.
I think of all the times I was made to go to church, how much I resented the pat answers that carried no real depth, no real emotion, no real truth. I smell the hot cotton shirt as I turn it over to the back and adjust the neckline, flipping the collar up to reach the shoulder.
I search for a better answer, a bigger answer to the question, “Why do I have to go to church?”
I find no new answers in the starch or the steam.
The next morning, I start complaining a bit to myself about all this churching as I’m rushing around the house desperately trying to get all these bodies dressed, fed, and out the door on time for Sunday school. The newest baby is crying as I leave him and daddy behind. Newly home from an African orphanage, he is not ready for large crowds and unfamiliar nurseries. and confusion stretches across his face as he watches us file out the back door.
Once again I’m torn between staying and going.
We skirt into Sunday school with a scant moment to spare and I settle into the back row trying to disappear when I realize I’ve forgotten the contribution check. I open my bible and begin to follow along with my teacher and do my best to soak in the calm that surrounds me, all the while remembering I have no idea what to feed the kids for lunch.
Later in the sanctuary my two smaller children settle into the pew restlessly. They spread out the requisite tools for keeping little ones quiet and occupied in church: crayons and action figures. My son starts in about how unfair it is that I quit letting him bring snacks to church and I remind him that a boy who’s almost seven should be okay without a few goldfish for three hours.
I’m not so sure that’s a battle I needed to win.
As the choir files in and the children settle down, I start thinking once again about the reasons I go to church, the reasons I put my children through the motions.
Is it just ritual?
Do I really believe there is more to the gathering than seeing the faces of people who believe the tenets of truth that I believe?
I lay the questions at the altar of my mind as the service moves forward and trust that in my asking God will do the revealing. As the service picks up speed, my son rests his tired head in my lap and loses himself in the gloriousness that is innocence sleeping in the presence of God. When the pastor begins preaching, I find myself able to jot down only a few notes because I’m dodging rolling elbows in my lap. But they are enough for God to restart my tired and disobedient heart.
While he preaches on Christ’s crucifixion, he glancingly mentions the following passage:
Who, being in the very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage,
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
even unto the cross! (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV)
I am struck with the remembering of how worship can be a pure act of obedience to the Father.
I consider this as I run my hand through my son’s soft brown hair and bristle some at the thought of obedience. I think about our world today and how almost nothing is viewed as profane, yet if I mention the word obedience people act as if I have insulted them.
[Tweet “Our culture touts a “Do what makes you happy” attitude and obedience smacks to the opposite of that mentality.”]
We are becoming conditioned to the idea that obedience is a negative and unnecessary idea.
[Tweet “Obedience is viewed as form of degradation, but in truth it is love. “]
It is love when Christ obediently comes down from heaven to walk with us and teach us who he is and what he is about in this world. It is love when the Messiah of the world is obedient to spend years learning to walk, learning to speak, and learning to live among a people who will one day demand his death. It is love on display when the Savior obediently turns his back on escape and chooses instead to walk the Via Dolorosa carrying his own instrument of destruction.
When I contemplate the workings of my Father, I am laid bare by my own selfishness.
Worship is many things to me, but one portion of it should be my willing sacrificial obedience.
I bow my head as the invitation is issued to those who are seeking and those who are lost. I stay seated because I now have two sleeping, sweaty children tucked under my wings, but I pray for forgiveness and I pray for a better understanding of obedience, a better way to show the people I love that . . .
[Tweet “Obedience is not a chain that binds me to religion but is instead a cord that binds me to his heart. “]
Are you obedient to the Father or do you ignore the demands of your faith when they conflict with your comfort or your culture?
The download, Prayer: Ideas for Opening up to God, can give you a starting place for establishing a biblical path of obedience to the Father.