When Church Is Too Hard

By Cindy Koch

I dread Sunday morning. Nervous sleep pesters me until about 6:30 am. The alarm finally rings, giving me official permission to begin preparations. I shower and dress quietly and cautiously, so as to not wake the babies in the next room. I knew once they were up my hands would be busy with them, and I might not get to my makeup this week, again. Throw on the dress, wipe on mascara, just in time.

“Moooooom!”

The little ones meet the morning with cranky, hungry tears and wake the older ones, also now grouchy from the rude awakening. As everyone tumbles out of bed, they limp to the kitchen looking for food. “Sunday morning church!” I say. Herding them back to their rooms, I pull out dresses and ties and shiny black shoes – their Sunday best. The toddler throws a fit because she doesn’t like the way this dress feels. The boy puts on his Batman T-shirt instead of the button-up shirt. My older daughter can’t find two shoes that match. Now we are 15 minutes behind schedule.

Finally, we make it out of the house, mostly dressed, and part-way done with breakfast. Buckle them in the car: 1, 2, 3, 4… where is Naomi? Of course, she is back in the house, quietly playing Barbies by herself, not a care in the world. I realize that’s where I want to be right now: comfy on my bedroom floor, lost in an alternate universe of nice plastic people.

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I remind her of our pressing reality, we’re late. Naomi drops her small friends mid-conversation, and I pick up the brush that she was supposed to be using.  All five kiddos in the minivan, we are off to church, already exhausted. Once we arrive, some run, some trudge, but we all get there somehow, only to arrive at the polite prison of the church pew.

Don’t get me wrong; I like church. I’ve always had this Sunday morning ritual, and wouldn’t know what to do otherwise. I have made lifelong friends here. My kids are part of a bigger family who loves them. I enjoy the activities. We love to sing the songs. But sometimes, especially on mornings like this, that stuff just isn’t enough.

I have so much on my plate already: homeschooling, toddlers & teenagers, and I can’t find the energy for that next potluck dinner. Even friends at church can be too much. I’m glad they can get together for coffee after the kids go to school. Great for them. More often than not, I feel like an outcast rather than part of the group. I know I’m supposed to be here, but really, if I can make out a few sentences from my Pastor’s mouth on a Sunday morning over my 2-year-old’s “whispers,” then it’s better than most. I’m tired. I’m hungry. This church stuff is just too hard.

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It’s not just those of us with small kids who dread Sunday morning. My lonely friends, my sick friends, my ashamed friends, my outcast friends, and I all take a deep breath and somehow get to church on Sunday morning.

And some of us don’t. It’s easier to stay home with the kids rather than the ridiculous ritual of Sunday Morning church. It makes sense to just avoid those people who disapprove of our actions and life choices. It’s reasonable to distance ourselves from those places that make us feel uncomfortable. We are tired. We are hungry. Church is just too hard.

Confined in my uncomfortable seat on Sunday Morning, surrounded by my nice looking hypocritical friends, shielding the hunger growls from my empty stomach, and wrestling a squirmy toddler, I suddenly heard something amazing.

“Amen!” squeaked a tiny voice from behind me.

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My youngest son who was tipped over the back of my chair responded loudly with the rest of the congregation. The pastor held a little piece of bread and a shiny gold cup of wine in front of us. This is my body given for you; this is my blood shed for you. My son’s little word was just a simple thoughtless congregation response, but it immediately focused my attention. His Amen was my Amen too.

Yes, church is hard most days. Yes, sinners will greet me every time. Yes, I will be just as tired and hungry as last week, but this is why Sunday Morning is worth it all. My toddler son, my teenage girls, my hypocrite friends, the lonely, the outcast, the ashamed, the sick, and myself, we all come together and say, “Yes, Christ’s body and Christ’s blood is for me.”

He feeds us. He forgives us. He strengthens us until everlasting life. Even when church is too hard, His promise is found there – for you.

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