A few years ago a gentleman at our last church said to my frazzled Sunday morning self, “Satan’s presence is never more evident to me than on Sunday mornings.  He shows up the second we get the kids in the car to head to church and tries his best to remove all evidence of Jesus in us by the time we get the kids home.”  Amen sir.  Amen. I so appreciated this man’s acceptance of how miserable children and church-going can be and that it’s a universal truth.  Since I so often feel this way on Sunday mornings and feel isolated in my “lack of Holy Spirit parenting,” I figured I’d put it out there for others to relate with if they so choose.

Here’s how Sundays feel for my short-tempered and highly sensitive self.  I stress there points because my husband is neither of those things and therefore, finds Sundays to be lovely and relaxing.  Bless.  The mornings at home are like most mornings at home and tend to be relatively smooth.

Until we ask the little people to get in the car. 

At that point, snot or cereal stains miraculously appear on our son’s shirt.  To the point of a necessary, upstairs change.  Stuffies and babies become ESSENTIAL to the success of our car ride and frantic packing of said toys ensues.  The perfect shoes are nowhere to be found (accept that there are always 32 pairs in the garage basket) and we remember that it’s probably show and tell day (this doesn’t actually exist at church).  Dad and I become “get in the car Natzis” and find ourselves deep breathing before we pull out of the driveway.  And then we realize that our son is in the wrong car.  KLOVE tries its best to soothe the backseat bickering, but typically fails.  Because they both have arms and legs.  And so, fighting.

We park at church, 20 minutes later, and walk down the city sidewalk to the welcoming aqua doors.  I search for my inner zen and try to force my face into a more grace-infused expression so as not to scare people away.  The kids run past Pastor Tim, ignoring his greeting and high five and I smile with no teeth, greeting him twice to cover up their rude dash for bagels.  He accepts because he knows our children and lovingly accepts them for who they are.  I greet at all the lovely people I pass as I bee line for the children as they dominate the cream cheese station and yell out requests for hot chocolate (which have never been granted).  I subtly direct my son into the sanctuary where he joins his group for our worship time.  I sit close, knowing he will make his way to me one to seventeen times, asking for more bagels and MAYBE did I change my mind about hot chocolate?  Or maybe he forgot to tell me about a new aquatic update in Minecraft.  Or he might end up on the stage.  It’s a crap shoot.

Once the children have left for their club time I breathe, settle in and am reminded why we come to church.  So many reasons come into focus.  I love our church.  The people, the teaching, the space, the textures, the image of Jesus holding, protecting, and welcoming his sheep, the opportunities to engage your senses….it’s home.  Tim and I will hold hands, laugh, take notes.  The service is a super charger for my soul.

And then the service ends.  We retrieve the littles from the basement and it goes a little something like this (our exact experience today).  There are 57 people I would love to engage with.  Amazing people.  As I make my way to the first amazing person, one of the children is tapping me.  Incessantly tapping.  I don’t know why.  Just tapping.  I try to shoo her away and that works for 30 seconds.  Until another one is whining about being so exhausted he could die. I tell him he’s welcome to die in the corner while Mommy has an adult conversation.  That works for 1 minute and then the girl child is in my business with her face all contorted, asking if she can go to her church friends’ house (whose mother is standing next to me).  After 3 attempts to ignore her with daggers coming out of my eyeballs, hoping she’ll catch on to how inappropriate she is being, she starts tapping me again.  I let out a mild scream and tell her to stop tapping me.  She leaves and the mom and I perhaps give up on talking about anything deeper than school schedules and the Target dollar spot.  And then the boy child decides to pour a solo cup full of Lemonade on TOP OF HIS HEAD.  Because he was hot.  And of course he assumed it was water.  It wasn’t.  And 15 people are staring at him, mouths agape.  And all hope of bringing my inner Jesus to the table is no more.  The Holy Spirit in me is non-existent and Satan’s presence takes over. And Tim goes to a council meeting, leaving me with the 57 lovely people and our children.  One of whom is dripping wet and stickier than all get out, and the other whining for her baby doll and 32 other toys that we left in the car.

Out of fear that I might physically explode my brains onto the green slide my son is “sliding down” despite the fact that he’s longer than the slide itself, I escort all of us out the gate, ignoring all the lovely people I would love to talk to.  Smiling at them in a genuine fashion isn’t even an option, so I leave, mumbling vulgarities in my head (I think it was in my head), promising to find my inner Jesus next week and hoping all the lovely people still think I’m a fun time.

THAT is the Jesus/Satan conundrum I call Sunday mornings at church.  Will we continue to go?  Without a doubt.

You lose Satan.