Janet and I are pretty devout church attenders. Unless one of us is ill, or we are out of town somewhere, we don’t miss church – and if we can’t be there in person, we stream the service live to our phones or iPads. We have attended Grace Church for more than 20 years and there is no question that we have built some relationships during that time. We always enjoy worshipping together and seeing several couples we know each weekend to catch up on the hectic lives we all lead.
Our oldest daughter, Kristin, and her three boys attended church with us for years, but somewhere along the line, more than a decade ago, Kristin ended up on the staff of another local church and switched her membership there. She and her family have been active members of that congregation and it has been a wonderful experience for all of them.
Jill, our younger daughter, who moved back to Indiana from Oklahoma this past summer, has chosen Grace as her church home and along with our grandson, Drew, attends services with us each weekend. It has been a blessing to us.
Andrew, our son, also attends Grace but is usually working when the services take place and so it has become rare, unless it is a holiday, for him to show up for church. But, and this is important, we know that all of our children are God centered and consider faith an important part of their lives. That’s not new… they have been Christ followers since they were young children when we attended the Carmel United Methodist Church.
Likewise, Janet and I both grew up at Trinity Methodist Church on the south side of Chicago. We actually met there are very young kids when our parents attended the Open Hearth Class, an adult Sunday School class that met between the church services when we were young children. Years later, sometime early in our marriage, Janet and I didn’t put as much emphasis on church attendance as we should have. We never fell away from the faith, but we were occasional church-goers and not as committed to our physical presence each week.
When we moved to Carmel, back in 1982, we re-committed ourselves to church and attended the local Methodist Church – it was so familiar to us from our own connection to the Methodist Church during our childhood. As Janet and I had experienced in our youth, I remember our kids going through confirmation class, various church programs, camp trips and all the other things that were so familiar. It seems like yesterday but it was more than 30 years ago now… How time flies… and after church each week, we all went out to breakfast together before we came back home as the events of the day started to unfold. Fond memories that all too soon faded into the background with the busyness of life.
But this weekend, I was surprised at church. As Janet and I sat down in our seats, all three of our children joined us. Our entire nuclear family, what we lovingly refer to as the Christian Mafia, was present. Now, we all live pretty close to one another, but our kids have families, and work, and outside activities – so it is rare for all of us to be at the same place at the same time if it isn’t some sort of celebration for a birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter.
As I looked around at the kids, I admit that I got a little emotional. There’s Andrew, inches taller than I am, towering protectively over his two sisters and listening to the message. And Kristin, sitting in front of me, engaged in the music and the rest of the experience even though she calls another place her church home. Nestled in the middle of everything was Jill, sitting next to Janet, seemingly relaxed and so glad to be “back home again” in Indiana and as I watched, eighteen years of absence melted away and it was like she had never gone away. The whole scene, with all our kids, was awesome from my vantage point.
There’s something about our nuclear family that is so comfortable – whenever we are in the same room, the connection among us is palpable. We love hard, and play hard, and fight hard, but we are indivisible. And so, as I watched my family tonight, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional – remembering how many years ago we worshipped together when the kids were so little. It is good to know that all of us are dedicated Christ followers and the next generation can look at any one of us and know that we are all ambassadors for Christ…
There are all kinds of verses that I could choose tonight about what I felt during church this weekend. But I have chosen a short verse from the Proverbs. Because throughout the years, Janet and I, as most parents have done, have questioned our role as parents and how we wanted our kids to “turn out.” I am pleased to report that I was proud tonight as just sat and watched the unspoken interactions of our family as we shared the word of God together.
The verse I have chosen is from the Proverbs. Solomon, the author of this book, tells us in Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” My encouragement this evening is that no matter how old our children are, they continue to watch us, see how we behave and learn from us. That gives us an opportunity to continue to point them in the right direction. My prayer is that we will all stay the course and actively demonstrate our faith to the future generations. Then, maybe we can all enjoy sitting in church with our nuclear families throughout all the days of our lives. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…