It amazes me how much having toddlers change the way you experience things in life. Things like car rides, sporting events, food shopping and meals have all dramatically changed to be, er… more eventful. Going to church used to be one such thing. At the height of my spiritual life, going to mass was an incredible experience. I felt so connected, so amazed by the majesty and wonder of the sacraments. I would come away from Mass enriched, refreshed, and in peaceful meditation on the profound truths I’d discovered. Since having kids, mass has become this once a week marathon that we have to buckle down and get through. It’s been reduced to packing the church bag, getting everyone lined up and dressed, putting on our big kid boots and keeping the troops quiet for a hour. I feel awful saying that, but I haven’t been able to listen to readings, homilies or psalms in a while. I realized on Palm Sunday that I spent the majority of mass thinking about whether or not the sippy cups had stoppers in them, who needed a diaper change, what side I nursed on last, where the extra nursing pads were, how to peel stickers off of pews, and all the while frantically trying to prevent my son from lifting up my skirt. Just when I came anywhere close to having a chance at a spiritual inkling, some child would jolt me back to reality by attempting to ram a palm branch up my nose.
I really miss feeling that connection to God. I feel out of the loop. Kind of distant. What is the solution then? The fact of the matter is, the kids aren’t bad in church. They’re excellent, most of the time you’d hardly know they were there because Camera Guy and I do so much behind the scenes work. And that’s just it. We’ve got the Mass down to a science, distracting toddler-wise. But that entails constant effort on our part, which requires enough brain activity to prevent us from paying attention to the extraordinary event taking place in front of us. So. Do I not bring my kids to mass, as one pastor has suggested?
I think ultimately Mass demands of us to be receptive, not necessarily reciprocal. That this is the moment where time stops so our God can come to us once again and feed our souls. Maybe years ago in my single-hood I could actively participate it a reciprocating kind of way at Mass… now I’m feeling more humbled, more “babied” as I just sit there waiting to gain nourishment from God…and maybe that’s ok. It is ridiculous to try and put the pressure on ourselves to live up to the spirituality we had as singles. Life has changed, vocations have emerged, and thus new expectations are born. Those of meeting God “in the marketplace”, in our day to day journey of motherhood. Through those brief moments of silence where all you can do is mumur a “thank you” in your heart.
This Easter season,I’m starting over by letting myself off the hook. I’m done feeling guilty for all the Sunday’s I shushed more than I sang hymns, or for all the times I had to pick up goldfish instead of bulletins. I know deep down that bringing those little stinkers along with me each week far pleases Him more than any amount of hymn singing can. Jesus was the one who said to let the little ones come to him, and so that’s what I’ll keep doing.I have to believe that by dragging their tushies before Jesus every Sunday is doing them better than sitting at home. That merely having them in his presence, just touching the edge of his garments, is something profoundly powerful no matter how distracted or distracting they are.