“Some of our most stressful, broken, yelling and fighting family moments happen on the way to church and in the church parking lot!” Anysia Bates, Real Christian Mom
I can’t take credit for those words, but when my friend, Anysia Bates posted them on Facebook for all her friends to read, I thought, how courageous. She spoke the truth about something our family experiences frequently — and I bet plenty of you can relate. If you opened the car door just as we’re pulling (OK, racing) in to church, you wouldn’t always exactly find brotherly love. We might force our smiles as we walk toward the sanctuary, but it’s masking a bitterness we’d rather not reveal in front of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Why, just look at everyone else smiling! I bet they sang hymns and planned for a sweet day of family togetherness on the way to church.
Anysia’s post resonated so much I felt compelled to dig deeper. She said, “For me, the drive in brings back all those memories of going to church as a child. Growing up, our family never showed our brokenness — we had to look like we weren’t falling apart. We had to project perfection. Lots of mornings I feel stressed because I think my kids should be perfectly dressed, or get along better on the way there, or stop fidgeting so much in the pews.”
I feel your pain, sister. While I know God sees what’s in the heart, I too, often worry the façade I might want to project is as transparent as the tight lip I might sport emerging from the car. I’ve probably just yelled at my kids to be kinder. DON’T YOU KNOW THAT JESUS WANTS US TO BEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER!!!? Um, epic fail, mama.
My brave friend Anysia gave voice to another common Sunday morning dilemma — the inevitable comparisons. Keeping up with those “Joneses,” — you know, the ones who never have a cross word, and whose children are clearly disciplined and polite and never yell inappropriate answers during the children’s sermon. She admitted, “I know in my heart that we’re supposed to go to church to be together in our brokenness, but I always seem to look around and compare my family to everyone else’s. I’m just sure they have these perfect lives. I want to portray goodness, and sometimes I just sit and feel ashamed. And my kids call me out on it — how come you’re smiling now when you just yelled at daddy?”
Anysia and I chatted a bit about why the Sunday morning drive can be so traumatic and messy. Her musings were sublime in their wisdom. “I think the closer you get to God, the more Satan wants to mess with you,” she said. Ah, right. “Satan can’t win if you’re going to church to love God, but He can create division on the way there.” Agreed. He can drive a wedge between spouses, or breathe disharmony and defiance in children and plant seeds of doubt in our minds. He can make us think we’re not as good as everyone else sitting around us. That we’re not worthy.
“The truth is, if we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God,” Anysia observed. True that. And our imperfections are no more apparent than those revealed on the drive to church on Sunday mornings. Perhaps those are just reminders that we are indeed, in need of our Savior’s amazing grace. But I figure if we make it to church intact — tight lipped and even inappropriately dressed or distressed — we claim victory when we walk through those doors, ready to give and receive the mercy that awaits us there to fuel the ride home. “Love always wins in the end,” Anysia says.
Take that, dark side.
• AFN contributor Diane Meehl lives in Ahwatukee with her husband and their brood. They can be found squabbling all the way to the doors of Mountain View Lutheran Church on Sunday mornings. Reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.