Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I used to be on time for things. I left early, I was rarely in a hurry, and I was never late. I couldn't understand why some people had such a hard time with punctuality. Seemed pretty simple to me. And then I had children.
I can't remember the last time that I've heard Matthew strike the first chord of the opening song at a Sunday morning church service. It's not that I don't care. I want to be there. I want to be there on time. But inevitably and invariably, the events that unfold around getting 4 small children who wake up at 7:00am out the door by 7:55am foil my best efforts. And yet, with the optimism (or stupidity) of a bird flying into a plate-glass window, I try again every week.
Last Sunday had promise. My son bounded up the stairs at 7:00 sharp, like he always does, a pajama-clad ray of sunshine. Harper shuffled up behind him, half asleep and blanket in tow. A few minutes later Bethany came into the kitchen fully dressed, though with hair that could have resulted from climbing an electric fence. Judah would be waking up soon, and there seemed to be more than enough time for everything to get accomplished. So I'm not sure how it happened, but at 7:58 one child hadn't brushed her hair, another couldn't find her shoes, one had fingernails from the crypt, and the baby was still in the highchair stuffing cheerios into his mouth. Despite my constant prodding, I'd seen icebergs move faster.
At this point tensions were elevated and I morphed into drill sergeant Mommy, barking orders and angrily herding the ranks into the minivan. By the time we were on the road we were clearly going to be late and I was no longer in the mood to go to church at all. I was angry at the kids and angry at myself for being angry at the kids. I considered just turning around and going home. What was the point? I knew I wouldn't be able to smile at people with sincerity. I knew I wouldn't be able to focus and truly sing to Jesus. Why bother going to church after the morning we'd had, and with all that anger inside. And yet I didn't want to let it go. I didn’t want to make it right. I just wanted to be mad.
So I prayed. I prayed and I preached to myself all the way there, and though it wasn't until we were just a few blocks away, my stony heart was finally melted. Before we got out of the van, I turned around and told the kids I needed to ask for their forgiveness because I had made being on time an idol and as a result, had gotten angry at them. As always they were quick to forgive and I got a humbling hug from each one as they piled out into the parking lot. On the walk to Children's Ministries we had a good discussion about idolatry and how it is the root of all our problems and sin. And by the time I got to church, well after it had started, I was able to sincerely smile and sincerely sing.
When it was time to take communion God explained to me what I was supposed to learn that morning. It was OK to come to church a total mess. It was good. It was better, even. What better way to approach the Repairer of all things then in brokenness? What better place to come as a broken person, then into the courts of the Restorer? God's abundant grace was extraordinarily real to me that morning because I walked in knowing that I needed it. Would I have experienced it as richly if I had been on time? If everything had been peachy that morning and there had been no pressure that would squeeze the ugliness inside of me out where it could be seen?
I'm all for peachy mornings. I wouldn't mind more of them. But every now and then it's good to have a rotten one, so you can taste the sweetness of grace.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”