Ever been Martha? Me too.
Being a mom, I find it is hard to read, to pray, to memorize, to meditate without distraction. In college, I was the gal who disappeared to the library during finals, and never emerged from my fuzzy-walled cubicle until the testing subsided.
Has it occurred to you that your time in church can give you that opportunity to focus and worship, without distraction? When I sit at home and try to read or study, I find myself thinking of chores that await in the next room, or I notice that the carpet needs to be vacuumed, or the smudge on the mirror should be addressed. Just the way I’m wired.
C. S. Lewis mentions an individual I can totally identify with in his book, The Screwtape Letters. This person sits in church and misses the sermon because they are mentally preoccupied with a feather on a lady’s hat in front of them. It floats to and fro with the breeze in the room. Mesmerizing.
Indeed, I found myself distracted once by a hymn text in college chapel that reminded me of the old movie The Poseidon Adventure…and by the end of the hour, my imagination had taken me to supposing that the entire auditorium might capsize and then forming a route of escape. True confession. Yes, I am challenged.
So, you say, how am I not distracted in church, then? Well, for starters, at least I’m in another building, and seated in a setting that is designed to point my thinking upward. The time is reserved specifically for this purpose. I have some sort of structure imposed upon me.
Do I still sit there and combat the fleeting thoughts about what I may have forgotten to put in the bulletin, or whether I’ll have enough supplies for the Jr. Church snack? Oh, yes. I can go there. I’m a pastor’s wife, for cryin’ out loud! 😉
God has provided the setting. I need to bring my resources to the situation. Press the clothes on Saturday night so I am not worried about how rumpled my family may appear. Have the Sunday noon meal items laid out on the counter the night before so I know it’s ready to roll. Print and fold the bulletins the night before as well. Avoid having the 7 year old ingest three bowls of Sugar Bombs before Sunday school. You know, practical things like that.
The most important thing for me to do is to have a calming of my mind and heart through the Word. I put on my armor… “overcoming daily by the Spirit’s sword“. This is war. Who but the adversary would desire to draw my attention away from the preaching of the gospel, from Christian fellowship, from eternal purposes? Go armed.
Good music helps on Sunday morning, too. It really does “calm the savage breast” (no, it is not “beast”….the word nerd in my looked it up once) …David knew that. So that I don’t walk into the church lobby “well in body, but considerably rumpled in spirit” as my friend Anne (with an e) says.
I have found I do myself a great favor on any day (and particularly on Sunday mornings, when the devil seems to enjoy pinching our children) if the Word of Christ dwells in me. Then, I have the tools with which I can govern my spirit. I have the stabilizing peace of God, which passes all understanding.
This peace of God can enable me to react in ways otherwise inexplicable.
Pastor husband invites visitors over for church on the one Sunday when I was going to take it easy and clear out the leftovers in the fridge for lunch? That’s okay. Having a young wife in the church openly say that she is learning from your response right there on the spot as she observed my reaction didn’t hurt, either.
Have a child who is super fidgety during the service for which we have no children’s service? That is unnerving to me. Crackling papers, dumped (full) boxes of colored pencils (which I took to church because they are quieter than the clickity click of magic marker caps…sigh), requests to use the bathroom, repeated reminders the sit like a lady while wearing a dress, instead of sprawling all over the seats. That is a supreme challenge for me.
But when the Word of Christ dwells in me, richly in all wisdom, then wisdom tells me to sit in the back so that at least I’m not additionally preoccupied with the thought that we are distracting others. It also reminds me that these days will pass, and said child will indeed one day learn not to sprawl, and crackle, and dump, and fidget.
Indeed, one day I’ll likely be sitting on the row alone…wistfully longing for those delightfully distracted days.