I was just recalling this experience with a friend. This post is from January 2010 - all you Minister Moms out there know the challenges... they soften and shape us.
I was bit today in church. With teeth.
An angry 5 year old knew he had me over a barrel, unable to escort him out or chew him out. With too much self consciousness to have a real, full-throttle outburst, he chose instead to writhe, bite, crawl under pews, whimper, and finally to slide his chair past all the pews up to the communion table while I was officiating, and generously bring another chair along for his little sister.
All in a whisper I bargained, cajoled, threatened (a lot), scolded, pleaded, and was bested. Daddy was away teaching, a guest preacher shared the word with us today, and I sat in the pews with my children. Which may have been manageable if that was all I did, but I also led communion, and was involved enough in the rest of the service that I couldn't leave for a kneeling in the hallway come-to-Jesus, or a family escape to a room with toys. Instead I did the concluding prayer with one kid sobbing on my hip and the other thrashing on the floor in the center of sanctuary.
I made the mommy-minister mistake: I crossed the line. For other minister-moms it might be different. But for my family, we have a line. We had set it up that there are are certain times mommy is not available. And over time, we had all gotten to be ok with this. Mommy just doesn't sit with us in church. We can see her, and shake her hand at the passing of the peace, and stand with her at the end when she says good morning to people, but she is not here to sit with us. But today, I thought, why not?Ohhh. That's why not.
My friend asked me, on the phone afterwards, “What did you learn from this?” I sheepishly admitted that I cannot do it all (especially at the same time), and that next time I would arrange for someone else to watch them, or let them spend the day with Grandma, or otherwise try not to be all things to all people, because then I am not very much for anybody.
Sorry children. Sorry congregation.
I can't help but hope that when they grow older our minister-mom line will disappear. That one day they, and I, will be able to handle me being in both roles simultaneously. And I can't help but wonder and worry what they are absorbing subconsciously, what our actions are teaching them about God, or church, or grace.
But I do know that when things are really bad - like today- they still feel from the congregation that they belong. That they are loved. As when they were included in the communion circle despite their refusal to participate in anything else. As when someone brought them instruments for the closing hymn, despite their brazen flaunting of order and decorum.
And so when someone looks into my kid's face and says, "The body of Christ, broken for YOU" and then helps him pass it to the next person, I guess my kids are learning an awful lot about God, and church, and grace. And maybe they teach us something too, or me, at least. That this is a place - or THE place - where we bring all of who we are, messy and tidy, and participate as much as we are able. And together we share in the task of being human, with and for one another, and letting each other be human, as we gather in the presence of God who shared our humanity, God with and for us.
May I learn that lesson too.