I was trained early about weekly church attendance. If I had been born on a Saturday, my mom probably would have had me in church the next morning. She would have looked great in her hospital gown topped off with some sort of amazing wool felt hat she made, her Sunday purse (I can still see her making the “switch out” on her bed), and girdle -the sixties version of Spanx.
We would have attended the early service. Not quite clear why my parents couldn’t wrap their heads around 11:00 church. My family has always been one of the few families in the neighborhood awake at the crack of dawn on a day when most were trying to get a few extra hours of sleep because they had no responsibilities for the day.
Admittedly, there is a compelling reason to make the effort to attend church on Sunday. Not everyone gets it. My parents made sure I did. As I got older, I tried other routines on occasion, but somehow, in time, I would always be drawn back to being in a house of worship on Sunday morning celebrating the goodness of our God. I have to add, I easily wrapped my head around the 11:00 service. I guess it was my ultimate form of rebellion against my parents.
Now I’m the mom of a family. I’m not quite as committed as my mom was to making sure we walked through the church doors at every opportunity they were open. However, I am/we are regular attenders and church is a priority in my life.
A few Sundays back the weather was horrible. We made the decision to stay home from church. I got this brilliant idea to try something I had never ever tried before in my home. I actually had to build up my courage to even allow the words to roll from my lips. We were going to try having a family devotion at our kitchen table in place of the church service we were missing. While attending church is something my family is very familiar with, having church in our home was waaaaayyyyy out there.
Earlier, I received a newsletter that included spiritual activities for the family to do in order to reinforce their Christian walk. This was going to be our guide and would help take a bit of the fear out of the equation. Since this was my idea, and very foreign to my family, I was going to be the leader. I said upfront I knew this was unusual and we might feel awkward, but I felt it was important to live our lives, in faith, out from under the bushel.
I babbled out some sort of prayer asking God to be present in our worship and to lead us through the time. I must not have said quite the right words as it soon became obvious that the devil thought he was invited as well. We started with two of the activities suggested in the newsletter and then got to the heart of the matter. Along the way my husband was very tolerant of the experience, but my daughter could not have wanted to be further away. You could tell she was mentally counting down the time to when she could get the ipad into her hands to play some silly gorilla game. It was frustrating, but I decided to push on through it.
Now we are at the core message of our devotion and guided to a reading in the Bible from the book of Zephaniah. This is not a book of the Bible I’m very familiar with. I probably couldn’t spell the name if it wasn’t right in front of me. The message was about how God uses discipline in relation to his beloved people of Israel who were rebelling against Him. Zoom forward a few thousand years and this very situation was happening at my kitchen table. My daughter was yawning, tapping her fingers, sighing- generally making it obvious she wanted no part of this experience.
I asked her to read the suggested passage from the Bible thinking at least she will get involved. I couldn’t see him, but the devil must have been sitting there with a giant grin across his face. Zephaniah 1:4-6– the gist is God is recognizing His people are complacent, worshipping false gods, thinking God wouldn’t do anything about their sin. My daughter is rolling her eyes, mumbling the words, being dramatic about the imposition that this entire experience is having on her life. I can feel the devil just laughing at us.
My husband erupts in frustration about the way my daughter is behaving. They get into verbal arm wrestling competition and neither of them is giving up. I’m trying to get focus back on the readings. I realize I’m witnessing the live action version of the story from the Bible- everyone rebelling, behaving in ways that are contrary to God’s plan. Tears are streaming down my face. I was losing the battle. My daughter was completely wrong in her behavior. My husband responded in a reasonable way and as a father would. I felt the moment was in slow motion and it lasted forever. This devotion was going, was gone, down the toilet.
My daughter gets sent off to her room. My husband is bringing down his blood pressure. I’m holding the Bible realizing the devil won this round. I read the next selection from Zephaniah (3:14-17) to myself:
“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
He will quiet you by his love. He is in our midst. He has cleared away my enemies. The devil tried, but he couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to give up. My husband came down from his mountain of anger. My daughter knew she had been wrong. They talked it out in time. Peace and calm was restored to my family.
I haven’t suggested a family devotion since that time. We did return to church the next Sunday. My daughter still rolls her eyes and shows her obvious disinterest at times. My husband gets frustrated and they get into power battles. I get involved as needed to bring reason. Just to be clear, on any given day, my husband and I switch roles about who is going to battle against the pre-teen ninja that enters into our house from time to time. I don’t want to paint the picture that I’m consistently at ease with what goes on at our kitchen table. It’s definitely not that way.
What is that way is that I really believe the devil saw an opportunity in our lives and took a hold of it. He knew I was uncomfortable about doing this devotion thing, that I might falter, that I might back down and crawl to a corner. He tried to prevail. He used my weakness and my family.
What he didn’t count on was the commitment I have to God, who I know is with me at all times. Who I know loves me and my family. Who I know takes care of us no matter what. He didn’t count on the strong gene pool that came from my parents and their parents before, who committed their lives to their faith and teaching their children about Jesus by living their lives as they do and did. He didn’t count on a Mother and Father who made sure their children were in church every Sunday of their young lives at 8:30 in the morning while the rest of the world slept.
As I look back I realize the direct correlation to building my faith and standing up to the devil’s ways. If I am weak in faith that makes the devil strong over me. But, he can’t be stronger than God. The other day I heard a comment about people thinking God and the devil were on equal plateaus- enemies of equal strength. It was pointed out, God created this being, who chose by his own accord, to turn away from God. He has nothing on God so he nothing on me.
Set your alarms-I’ll see you in church in the morning…at 11:00.