Let me tell you about the day my daughter shut down our Christmas Eve service. Perhaps you were there and have no need for a play-by-play, but for those of you who had fortunately missed her little escapade, let me break it down for you.
Rewind twenty-five days ago.
Christmas Eve day involved me wrapping presents, nursing Judson, preparing dinner, and keeping the girls occupied. There were no naps for them, just room time, which would be fine for any other normal day as long as they could get to bed by 7:00 p.m. and I could endure a 5:30 p.m. tired melt down. Oh wait- this is Christmas Eve. Game changer. My bad. So, we rushed off to the 5:00 p.m. service, the three kids and I, and I thought, “We can do this. One hour, mostly music, sit by the exit. We’re good.” Only problem is that we weren’t good. Not. at. all.
When my girls get tired they act like they drank five cups of coffee and have ants in their pants. Add Christmas in the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. And let me tell you…
The service began and everything was going okay for the most part other than a few wiggles and some chatter. The girls were checking out the band, Judson was sleeping, and I was trying to really embrace “Silent Night”… “sleep in heavenly peace…” “Hmmm haven’t done that in YEARS!” Anyway, I digress…
Everything was fine until it was time to take the Lord’s Supper. In our church, the people process down the aisle one row at a time to take the elements except for those who are unable to walk up to the front, and there are deacons who serve those individuals. I was not about to walk up to the front and leave my three kids, so I just remained seated. I sure wish Analise did…
I must have blinked or something, but before I knew it Analise was rolling around up front like a hedgehog in heat right next to the Lord’s table. I hurried through the pew and quickly grabbed her all the while Analise yells “I want a present! Where’s my present?!” I shushed her and whispered, “Later. Later if you’re good.” “No, where’s my present?” she said. When we made it back to our pew Judson started to fuss and Analise was still asking about her present pointing to the people processing to the front. I then got it. She thought people were walking forward to get a present for Christmas. Sheesh! Really?! I never explained the Lord’s Supper to her. Kind of tricky with a girl who was a 2-year old a month ago. I did what any mature, wise, and loving mother would do.
I made a run for it!
I quietly said, “We’re going home” thinking that they would line up like baby ducks behind mama duck. I grabbed the car seat, dashed out of the pew to the side aisle and said, “Let’s go.” Analise melted down. And I mean MELTED DOWN. She does that. But, here? Now?! Moms, let’s say it together, “OF COURSE!” Every place and moment that requires reverence and silence is game time for littles. And for Analise on Christmas Eve it was ON! She froze, screamed, “I DON’T WANT TO GO!!!!” And then Kara cried too because I apparently bashed her in the head with the car seat in my hurried, frantic attempt to escape, which she didn’t tell me about until after dinner that evening. All three kids were crying by this time. It’s a miracle that I wasn’t crying too!
You could hear a pin drop in that sanctuary (well, other than my crying children).
We made it out and dashed home. I kept thinking, “Poor Travis.” He had to keep everything going. He handled it well from what I hear. No surprise there. I would have probably said, “Well. That’s all folks. See you in the New Year. Peace out!”
If you are a mom then you’ve been there. If you are not a mom then you haven’t. This is not a dig. It’s a reality. Before I had kids I use to see these little urchins run around like crazy people with way too much energy and think, “Hmm when I have kids I’ll make sure that they are dignified and self-controlled who sit often and only run on playgrounds.” Sure. And then we’ll go bird watching and sip tea afterwards. The thing is that these little people were not even on the globe five years ago. They were only thoughts in God’s imagination and design, but not present in our physical world. My coffeemaker is older than my kids for crying out loud!
All of us, including our kids are in the laboratory of life. We’re not finished yet. My parenting is not finished yet. For Pete’s sake I’ve only been at this thing for over four years, so I sure do not have it all together…if you want proof just re-read the story above. Oh, and I have PLENTY others.
When I talk with young women without kids, they look at me all doe-eyed and speculative asking all sorts of questions about my kids and their little defiant ways. I don’t defend them or my parenting. I simply say, “Yeah, we’re working on that. God is working on me. We’re a mess. Oh, but look at Jesus. Now He is Something! Grace. Now breathe.” And I also think, “Yes, I have had the same questions and had the same ideas about how I would parent. It’s nothing like I thought it would be. It is so much harder. Oh, and so is marriage. But that’s another topic for another day.”
We all fail at life. We really do. Sure there are wins along the way, but more often than not we stumble like hippos on ice skates. Don’t we?!
Why do we then?
We are all in the laboratory of life. We are all learners. There are no champions, but one. There is only One, and He is our end. Because Jesus didn’t save us for us to intimidate and mock others, but to humble ourselves as He did. If our lives or our parenting, or any other thing about us screams, “Yay us!” then we are missing the whole point. Just when we think we’ve got this then we meet a job loss, sickness, a broken water heater, or some other keg in our little wheel of perfection. We say or do something that we regret and shake our heads in shame wondering “Where did that come from?!” If we think we are on stage rather than in a lab, then shame is what meets us in those moments. But we should not greet it. Never greet shame. Instead, we must look around us and inside of us and say, “This is a laboratory, not a stage. I
do not have to perform or excel. I simply must learn.”
Learn the spiritual disciplines.
Learn your lover.
Learn your children.
Learn your life’s work.
And keep learning.
Be suspicious of teachers who are never learners. Those who are always eager to “show you the way” and yet turn their heads to learn the way themselves. But you? Keep learning. Life is a laboratory. It always is. Embrace that.
Oh, and when you fail…and you will. Get up and grow. This is how you win at life.