Last Sunday I chased my 2-year-old daughter around the church after worship. She ran with the abandon of a toddler set free—up and down the halls, around the kitchen and fellowship hall, belly laughing while I tried to keep up with her in my heels. People stopped me to chat or give me reservation forms—the regular church business of Sunday mornings—always understanding I had to run as soon as her blond head raced around a corner out of my sight. We are used to this pattern.
In the middle of her freewheeling, she ran into the dim and empty sanctuary, still scented with the smoke from recently extinguished candles. She jumped up and down the chancel stairs (I can’t believe she is big enough to go up and down stairs without holding my hand), her stuffed Minnie Mouse jingling at her side. She then came to me and grabbed my pinky finger, her warm little hand gripping it with confidence, and led me down the quiet aisle. She brought me behind the altar and stood next to me, her chest puffing out as she yelled 2-year-old gibberish with authority into the empty sanctuary. I suddenly realized what she was doing and the hairs stood up on my arms. This was a holy moment for me.
Not only did she see my place as in front of the congregation, but she placed herself there with me. I’ve spent too many hours weeping and gnashing my teeth over my dual roles as pastor and parent. Many days I see them as mutually exclusive, especially when I have to leave right after supper for an evening meeting and she and my son stand at the top of the stairs with tears in their eyes. But it took her simple gesture that morning to remind me we are in this together. My whole being—good, bad, job, play—will form my kids, and they in turn will form me. God’s grace weaves through it all, releasing me from debilitating guilt and allowing me to see, enjoy and learn from my children. For grace gives life and freedom.
As my lovely husband likes to say to me, “We are writing our own story.” And we are.