It was approaching 12pm on Sabbath. I could picture the song service, pastor preaching and fellowship tables being prepared. My seven-month-old was still asleep.
After a long, hard night, I was exhausted. I was hungry. She needed sleep. My husband messaged from church saying he’d saved us a seat. “We’ll probably just make it for lunch!” I replied.
She woke a few minutes later, so on went some orange pants, a white cardigan, a headband, and we were off.
People were milling around outside when we arrived. Being a fairly large congregation I quietly hoped no-one would notice we’d just arrived. My husband and I exchanged knowing looks. Our baby is always a good conversation starter.
Once inside I chatted with some friends. Despite the baby bliss, my conversation evaded mention of my week’s extreme tiredness, occasional relational stress, spiritual flatness and baby blues. Past our bright smiles, no-one probed deeper. What mattered was being amongst church family, even if only briefly.
A friend held our baby so we could eat—the same friend who looked after her so I could sit through my first complete post-baby church service recently. Perhaps I did come for the food today, I mused to myself, listening to the people talking and laughing around me as I enjoyed the company and lunch I didn’t prepare.
That day, I observed and felt a special dimension of God’s love expressed through the smiles, kindness and warm food given by people I often only see at church. Spiritual morsels through spiritual mortals.
Whether absent from church, or unintentionally absent in spirit, I am grateful for a gracious, understanding God. Especially after a sometimes tense Sabbath morning or rush to get to church on time to utter a meaningful “Happy Sabbath” greeting. He reaches me wherever I am, however I am, in whatever season I’m in: whether through food, friends, fellowship, or my loved ones.
I could not have imagined how large, loud and lovely God’s love has become since becoming a parent. Each time I look at, listen to, nourish and embrace my precious daughter, God’s love is magnified.
While I love church, some days, in my haste to get home for feed and nap time, I admittedly leave church feeling only physically nourished. The rushed small talk has felt unnourishing, and sometimes draining! To turn up, or not turn up—has occasionally felt like a risk. [pullquote]
Do I risk: appearing tardy or unfaithful? Being more stressed out and anxious being at church, than being at home? Awkwardly falling asleep in church because of sleepless nights? Throwing out a working weekly routine to have a tired and hungry baby at a church with no quiet mothers’ room? Or do I choose to turn up (even if just for the food and friendship), hoping to be filled, and maybe even to give to someone what little may be left in my cup during this season of life.
Whether a new parent or not, turning up to church (and on time) is not an expression of one’s spiritual state or commitment. Some Sabbaths, spending time reconnecting and strengthening relationships with loved ones, being in nature, sleeping, listening to uplifting music or reading a book is more restful, peaceful and nourishing for my spirit. While other Sabbaths I turn up, knowing that despite this new—oft out of the pews—season of parenting, little can replace the multidimensional nourishment offered by my church community.
If, like me, you sometimes turn up to church to eat or socialise, be nourished. Or if you notice someone who may be just “turning up for the food”, or not at all, perhaps ask what nourishment they may appreciate.
In this season of transitioning to a family of three, I am encouraged by Paul’s words, and grateful for a church who practises the style of hospitality endorsed in Romans 12:13: “ . . . Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Sonja Kama is a wife, mum, freelance writer and communicator.