I held Kate in church today as we stood in the second row.
She met my gaze with squinting, smiling eyes and sang the hymn at the top of her lungs. Singing with joyful abandon, trying to hear her own voice over the choir, she naturally attracted some attention. The elderly woman in the pew over couldn’t erase the smile on her face as she kept glancing over at Kate — the older family behind us doted and grinned. When Kate insisted upon reading her storybook out loud to her baby doll during the readings, Matt walked with her to the back so our row could hear the pastor (though her story really was quite good!)
The congregation is starting to recognize us. With four children, 5 and under, we pile in holding hands as a little chain. Usually at least one of us steps out early to spend the second half in the back with a restless child.
Last week, a stranger came up to me and said: your husband is looking for you (he had parked the car and dropped us off). She knew exactly who belonged to me — and to whom I belong. This week another stranger I hadn’t met before commented on how well-behaved the kids were (I invited her to sit with us next time!) and said that she was sorry we had to stand last week.
And though there was a time when I would’ve felt a twinge of embarrassment or guilt that perhaps the glances and attention we attract is out of frustration or annoyance, I know better now.
There was a particular service a few months ago when I was almost in tears. The children were chatty and playing musical chairs across Matt and my laps. I tried to discreetly nurse the baby as the toddler emptied the diaper bag. My face felt hot and I felt as though 500 eyes were looking straight at us thinking: why are you here?
And then, someone answered my question.
We were gathering our things and getting the kids together when a man a few rows back made his way upstream through the crowd to greet us. He reached out his hand to introduce himself and then said:
“I just want you to know how much I enjoyed watching your family today. We all did. You couldn’t see them, but everyone in the rows around you were smiling the whole time. Thank you for being here today. Through your love, you help us to see God.”
My heart full of gratitude, I smiled and thanked him. Because of his loving comment, he did the same for me.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7