The ordinary sounds of Sunday morning help mask some of my son’s repetitive outbursts, but the quiet of the sermon is a struggle. Admittedly, even typically developing 8-year-old boys struggle with the sermon. It’s just more of an issue for my child.
When our pastor began his message by announcing a period of silence, my stomach plummeted. Now we wouldn’t even have one voice to cover our disruptions.
The hush fell gradually upon our congregation, as the whisper of bulletins and cough drop wrappers slowly faded. I could feel my heart thumping as I looked at my son. Exactly at the point of total absence of sound, my son sat up, looked around at the congregation, but didn’t say a word. As he sat motionless, his blue-gray eyes scanned the room. At one point, after the pastor had started his preaching, my son leaned over to me and whispered—whispered!—“I have never heard a sermon about silence in my whole entire life!” He didn’t even ask for his tablet. He wanted to hear the message.
My instinct is to stay in bed, smother fear with a pillow, cultivate the illusion of safety beneath the warmth of my duvet. Waking to the news of yet another shooting, stabbing, natural disaster, I find myself echoing Francis Schaeffer: How should we then live?
I don’t mean what should we do—should our churches be more political? Should we trade our laptop activism for marching in the streets? How do we have the hard conversations around gun rights, access, ownership, and mental health when our society is so polarized? No, my question this morning is more pedestrian: how do I get out of bed?
And then, how do I wake my five children? How do I send them off to school? How do I live my life inside the constant threat of terror?
In my room sits an empty cardboard box that my middle son gave me for Mother’s Day. “I don’t understand why you have pillows on your bed that you don’t use for sleeping,” he said. “But I thought I would make you a place to keep them at night.”
This box is, in so many ways, emblematic of my son. He doesn’t always understand “normal” things like decorative pillows; he often doesn’t understand this world. But he loves the people who do crazy things like own pillows they don’t use for sleeping. He wants us to know that, in his own way, he’s trying to accommodate us, too.
“As a church, we can’t lead a conversation about gun violence or sanctuary cities out in the public sphere if we can’t even talk about it in our own community.”
I learned about her decision from a teen volunteer, who came to find me, ensconced in the nursing mother’s room at the church with my three-month-old.
“Um, your little girl is in the atrium renouncing her faith,” the volunteer relayed. “She says she doesn’t want to believe in God anymore? I thought I should, like, come and get you?”
Too often, I forget to praise. Surrounded by the scarred remains of what once was Eden, praise seems almost out of place—something frivolous, superfluous. Shouldn’t I be doing more serious things with my time?
And yet. The God who calls me to repent and lament also calls me to praise, to remember the glory of the One whose breath sustains my lungs. In the unlikeliest of places and circumstances, God calls me to remember to praise.
As the last sibling was deposited curbside with the usual barrage of I-love-you, please-tie-your-shoes, don’t-forget-to-turn-in-your-field-trip-form, see-you-soon, my little guy looked at me and asked, “Mommy, is it Fursday?”
“It is Thursday,” I confirmed.
“YES!” he called out, his footie-pajama-clad feet kicking high into the air. “I love Fursday! I can’t wait to get home and rest!”
Suffice it to say, we have kept our Thursday morning sabbath.
My daughter’s eyes are wide as she enters the sanctuary. This place, so familiar to her, is incongruent at night in its somber hush. With the exception of a tiny baby wrapped securely on his mother’s back in a sling, she is the youngest person here. We slide into our pew, and the service begins.
She watches the proceedings with a grave expression, self-consciously determined to be solemn. Kneeling, her nose barely clears the shelf on which the prayer book rests in front of her, and she clasps her hands in prayer fervently. With the exception of a quick smile during the sermon, when the priest makes an allusion to The Chronicles of Narnia, she is the picture of seriousness. My hands rest over the fluttering kicks in my middle, and I watch her.
“I read the Bible,” Scott Morris recalls, “and I couldn’t help but notice everything in there about healing the sick. It is on every page.” But when he looked at the churches around him through this lens, Scott wasn’t satisfied with what he saw: “We pray for people on Sunday morning, the pastor is expected to visit people in the hospital, a few people visited the shut-ins, and that defined our healing ministry.”
“It’s very easy to just focus on the medical aspect of our work, but what we’re really trying to do is live out the Gospel,” Scott says. He cites Plato’s view of mind/body dualism—the idea that we are separate parts dust and breath—as a “fundamentally non-Christian idea.” Human beings cannot simply be broken down into component parts, with separate entities caring for our health, our faith, our other needs, and have no communication between those caregivers. We are created whole, in God’s image, and should be treated as such.
My childhood copy of Ferdinand was beautiful—the red cover, the flowers, even the lettering. I remember very clearly the way the light and dark shading of the font played together in perfect harmony in the title on the cover.
What I remember most is the picture of Ferdinand sitting, all by himself, under the cork tree. And how the story tells us that “His mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy.”