I grew up going to Sunday school but don’t recall going every week. And I grew up with a very spiritual father who didn’t usually join us in church when we did go. My parents were raised in different churches, one a traditional church setting, one unconventional to some as it was done more by at home teachings. I was confirmed but never felt a connection with the church, pastor, or any of the other kids for that matter, definitely not a sense of community. Hubby and I attended premarital counseling at the church we chose to get married in and occasionally went on a Sunday mornings after we were married. Then came kids, and honestly I can’t even tell you what set in but I knew my kids needed to grow up in church, as much as I needed to be in church. I don’t think I even gave having a church family a thought, because I really didn’t know what that was or that it even existed. But I trotted our daughter off to Sunday school as soon as she was of age for the church I had chosen, age 2.
In the years that followed, I church hopped every few months or years until I found something that seemed to suit our family. Notice I said, I. Not we. Being raised in a United Church of Christ, I followed suit with that and did all the traditional things like infant baptism. And yes, hubby would show up and entertain guests afterwards. But he didn’t come with us each week. I remember going to a new church once for the first time, it was snowing and I was getting a 3 year old, 2 year old and 5 month old out of the van by myself when an older man approached me and took the baby carrier from me so I could take the two little ones’ hands in the parking lot. Oh man, looking back I wonder what that man was thinking. I stayed at that little church for a year and a half, until I realized I need somewhere that had more children for my kids to grow up alongside.
I had started attending church weekly and getting the kids involved in activities. And I was now toting a 6 year old, 5 year old, 3 year old and a very large belly with baby #4 in each week. Again, notice I said, I. I would sit in the pew with the baby dancing in my belly, alone. I would deal with the 3 year old who would cry as soon as I pulled into the church parking lot, alone. I would trek through the church collecting everyone from their different classrooms with all the papers and through the parking lot, alone. And yes, sometimes it was too much, and sometimes I didn’t feel like it, and sometimes I was mad. Honestly the only thing that made it even tolerable is that my hubby likes to clean, so I usually came home to a super clean kitchen if nothing else. And then baby 4 came and I was doing it all still with the addition of an infant. Fabulous. But during this time, I was digging deeper and deeper in my faith. I was drained physically and mentally by being an at home mom to these four kiddos and holding onto a thread of faith is what pulled me through. I started getting more involved in church activities with the kids. And as my relationship with Christ was taking form I was seeing their faith flourish as well.
In the midst of our lives somewhere in the mix he just started coming along with us. I don’t remember when or what make him make that choice – you may surely ask him in the comments section and I’ll have him respond to you. But there we were all of a sudden. All six of us, walking into church together, as a family. I think one of my greatest joys is seeing him rest his head in his hands, elbows on his knees praying next to me. The example he is to his children, to his sons is priceless. The example to me about being faithful, about God’s perfect timing, about the power of prayer.
I unfortunately don’t have all the answers. I can only share my experience with you. But I can tell you you have to lead by example. Be unwavering. Know who you are leading, and lead in a way that speaks to him. He was watching me, he was watching us. I didn’t just want my husband to go to church with me. I wanted my husband to be a Christian and want to go to church with me and our children. To have an intimate relationship with Christ and to be the spiritual leader of our house. Let me tell you, it didn’t happen over night. And if it had, would it have been authentic? I don’t think it was one thing I said or did. I believe it was the Holy Spirit working through me and in him.
Now I can’t say for certain but I will estimate that I took the kids by myself to church for at least 8 years. And it’s ok. Because God was doing a mighty work in all of us during that time. It has gone from me crying myself to sleep wondering if I died during the night if I would ever see my husband again, to him wanting to tithe each week, serve and build a relationship not only with Christ but others in the church. See I know my husband and he isn’t a luke warm kinda guy – he’s either cold or hot. I also know that when myself or anyone else for that matter tries to push him towards something, his natural instinct is to go the other direction, so I tried not to do that. His reaction to an invitation was his reaction, and I had absolutely no control over it. We changed churches this past year, and while it was so difficult after being somewhere for 12 years, it was the best thing for all of us, most especially him. Wow, who would have known. A few weeks ago the kiddos were sick and I was getting over a bad cold, and he went to church – by – him – self! How great is our God?
Here are a few things I learned during our journey, I pray they are encouraging and helpful for you:
-Don’t nag -lead by example -know your spouse, what fills them up, what atracks them to something, etc. -find out what’s behind them not attending, be sincere and LISTEN -be accommodating (that may mean changing churches, services, prayer groups, you being less involved at church while he grows spiritually etc. be open) -stand firm in your faith -fill the spiritual gaps without overcompensating -DO NOT talk down about your spouse to your children -DO NOT make excuses for your spouse to your children -Remember that God’s timing is perfect. -Surround yourself with others who foster your spiritual growth and support you and your family, non-attending spouse included
Thanks for the pictures babe…and for always ‘checking us in’ at church 🙂