A couple of days ago, I optimistically toted my two-year-old to a no-nursery Bible study event. I don’t have still, quiet children and this kind of scenario has never worked out for me, but I felt God nudging me to go, child-in-tow. So, what else could I do?
I girded myself with cereal snacks, a blankie, and a massive amount of hope, and swung open the big doors to the church like a soldier marching to battle.
As predicted, my time in the actual session was extremely limited. My son and I quickly moved from the back of the sanctuary to the foyer, from the foyer to the balcony steps, and from the balcony steps to the front porch of the church. Unsure of what I was really hoping to accomplish, I opened a Little Baby Bum video on my phone and decided to use this brief mom-break as an opportunity to pray for the people inside.
After a few moments, my thoughts began to stray.
I found myself thinking of all the many, many hours I have spent sitting outside of a church service or Bible study since becoming a mom. So many times, I have shown up to church almost gasping for some spiritual air . . . only to find myself alone, toting preschoolers or babies through the halls. Sometimes this is okay, and sometimes it’s almost crushingly disappointing. It’s a hard thing to be standing outside hungry while a feast is going on inside.
As I was thinking these thoughts, I felt God quietly remind me of Psalm 84:10, which says “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” And then I felt him whisper: I’ve heard you say you’d like to be a doorkeeper before. So what about those people who feel permanently unwelcome, permanently stuck on the steps of my house? What are you going to do about them? Doorkeepers always look outward.
My son, now tired of Little Baby Bum, began to wander around the perimeter of the church before taking a sharp turn inside to roam the cool halls of the classroom corridor. As I followed him, I asked God to show me who He was talking about. Almost instantly, the faces of so many of my friends – real people – began to flash through my head. And I began to cry a little, thinking of what it must feel like to always be deemed unacceptable, to always feel unwelcome.
At just that point, my son decided to make a run for it. To my horror, I saw he was charging towards an open door at the front of the packed sanctuary. I knew if I snatched him up, he would loudly protest, so I tried to quietly coax him backwards.
He couldn’t be persuaded. He loves the inside of this church sanctuary. Specifically, he loves running down the aisles, smiling at the people, walking up the steps to the choir loft. He loves it so much that I often try to park on the opposite side of the building so we don’t get stuck there for an hour after Bible study. He was running into that church like his life depended on it . . . and he was not running quietly.
At just that moment, someone . . . perhaps wisely? . . . slipped out and quietly shut the door. My son watched her do it, and I saw his face crumple. He fell on the floor and he began to sob and sob. He just wanted to go into the church!
I picked him up and ran/walked in the other direction, but at this point there were tears on my face too. I saw that God was showing me something here, something He didn’t want me to miss.
It’s true . . .my son was going to be disruptive.
It’s true . . . he would have altered the flow of the service.
It’s true . . . he would have made more than a few people upset
. . . but he didn’t understand all that. All he wanted to do was run into that church with all the joy and exuberance of a two-year-old who likes to wave and smile and run down the aisles.
And now the door was shut.
My friends, I could talk this illustration out further, but I think I’m going to leave it right here and let your heart do the thinking.
And then I’m going to issue a challenge.
One Sunday . . . on a Sunday when you really want to hear a sermon or be part of a lesson . . . I want you to step outside of the service and sit on the steps. Make sure you do this when you are thirsty for encouragement or the word, not just when you are falling asleep. Do it when you want to be there most. And as you sit there, I want you to pray and ask God to open your eyes to all of the people who are figuratively sitting there with you. You can start in a safe spot, by praying for the moms and dads, the caregivers, the parents of children with disabilities . . . but ask Him to open your eyes wide. Ask him to help you see who else feels unwelcome. Ask him to help you see what you can do to hold the shut doors open.
If you do this, will you consider dropping a note on my page, shooting me a message, or even posting about it on your page?
If you do, use the hashtag #SundayontheSteps, and maybe we can all grow together as the welcoming body of Christ.