Narrative, Three Ways

Fiction.

We love Sundays. We love our church. It is a home for us, if ever there was one. Week after week we bask in deep fellowship and intimate friendship, a veritable Shakespearian “Band of brothers.” Sunday is the high point of our week. We join with our brothers and sisters, approaching the throne of grace together and letting the story we enact in worship reignite our imaginations for a new week of work, letting word and bread and wine nourish us every week to live in sure victory we’ve hardly tasted yet.

We live just down the street from our church and we are so thankful to be somewhere that feels like such a perfect fit for our family, where we can throw ourselves into its life on every level, every day. We are privileged to serve by crafting and leading worship and we love that our kids have such a good community here. We plan to stay here forever. Sunday mornings start early since we are the resident Levites, but it’s nice that we can take two cars to church if we want to, or even walk the short mile on a sunny summer morning.

Morning worship ended, we spend the whole afternoon with our dearest friends, celebrating everything good in this life and in the life to come. We feast, we toast, we pray. We sing, we laugh. We fall asleep on the couch sometimes. We rally before the day is done, gathering again to end the day doing what we were made for, and lingering with friends until a subtle deacon flips out the lights. We move the party to someone’s house or a nearby restaurant, or we go home in high spirits and spend what’s left of the evening enjoying each other’s quiet company.

Fact.

Sundays are a nightmare from start to finish. In the mornings we wake before the sun, fly through the house, nag our kids through their breakfasts, and walk out of the house with our arms full. We drive 65 intense, whiny minutes to a church that just isn’t our church, on so many levels. We thank God constantly for providing our income through this place, and for giving us a place to worship with integrity and hear the Word with clarity, but we don’t fit here.

We drop our kids off in nursery and go our separate ways. As the children’s choir director, I get 20-30 minutes with 4-12 kids, depending on how late they are and how many are busy with sports and sleepovers. Mike prepares to lead worship and rehearse the adult choir and maybe be the tenor section depending on who shows up. The kids’ good will has run out by the end of 15 minutes of announcements, and they begin to squirm as we hear the call to worship. Church is mostly about trying to do a side-run around potential temper tantrums and keep toddlers from being a spectacle while simultaneously training them to worship actively and un-self-consciously. Sometimes I think it’s working, sometimes not. The 65 minutes we spend in the car on the way home are a cocktail of any or all of the following: toddler lunch, toddler tantrums, toddler naps, toddler entertainment. (“Look at that Weeo Car!”) Those sometimes toddler naps mean no toddler naps at home, and sometimes even if they opt for tantrums or entertainment instead of naps, they’ve still passed from sleepy to hyper and there will be no naps, regardless. Meanwhile, Mike and I are needing blood pressure medication.

Lunch is often leftovers in a house that often looks like the remains of a tornado. We pass the afternoon alone, with maybe a nap or an essay or an overdue conversation or composition project, or maybe we just play play-dough. After feeding the kids a quick dinner, we drive the mile to our other church, the other church that just isn’t our church, on so many levels. Somehow we are semi-citizens of two churches at the two far ends of a spectrum on which, bafflingly, we find ourselves at the same time squarely in the middle and, well, not even on that particular spectrum, really. We just don’t belong here. But we are here, and we anticipate being here for five more years. And after that… We don’t think about that much these days, we just try not to doubt and despair. So we close our Sundays homesick for who-knows-what, whisking our kids into bed late, and proposing a toast (to who-knows-what) with steaming mugs of Kraft mac-n-cheese, which somehow feels like the best part of this tumultuous day.

Faith.

We live for Sunday. We craft our whole week around Sunday. We speak well of it. We speak of it with enthusiasm. Our kids do, too, and Jacob always grins and asks “Is it Sunday!?” when we sneak into their bedroom together already dressed for church, waking them far too early. We prepare for the day by our own morning and evening worship on Saturdays and a special dessert after worship before bedtime. We want our kids to know what we know: Sunday is about delight. It is about the good things of life.

This feels like a sick irony to me sometimes, if for no other reason than that our best celebrating happens on Saturday night because Sunday barely has room for it in all its surviving. But we prize Sunday’s business – the business of worship, of tasting heaven in tiny sips, seeing it in flitting shadows. We prize it objectively, practically, actively, willfully. We prize it by our carefully chosen smiles and our carefully chosen (or not chosen) words. We prize it by playing play-dough and reading stories. On one level these are hard, sometimes miserable days. But on a deeper level, we live for these days.

Faith, I’ve been told, sees more than what the world sees.

Truth.

Sunday is the best day of the week, whether it feels good or not. This is the truth. So week after week we choose naivety. We lift up our hearts as if we aren’t expecting the tantrums or the homesickness. We approach Sunday knowing that often in this fallen world truth transcends fact. The fact is that Sundays are impossibly, impossibly burdensome these days, and in an honest moment I’ll confess to a private passion for Monday mornings.

But we look beyond this. We do our best to see with eyes of faith, because we want our children to learn truth, and sometimes truth is best taught by disguising fact. And the truth is that Sundays are for joy. So we smile and sing and shrug it off and try to get to bed a little earlier next Saturday night so we can hide the hard a little better next week.

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2 thoughts on “Narrative, Three Ways

  1. Thank you for this, Susan. I am struggling very hard with Sundays right now, given that my choice seems to be lack of community or screaming no-nap toddler, and it is good to know that others struggle with trying to live in the Sabbath and teach it to little kids who just want their schedule and their lunch and their sleep.

  2. 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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