I trust that at some point in my life being late to church on Sunday morning will be a thing of the past.
But with multiple small children and a husband who usually has responsibilities at church before the girls even get up, being late on a Sunday morning is a semi-regular part of my life. I will say for those who may be brand new mommies and are about to be completely discouraged, I have a way better chance of being on time now with four small kids and another on the way than I did when there was just one or two. Life really does get easier.
Because being late is now semi-regular instead of constant, I’ve started to see how much being late can influence your mindset going into corporate worship.
(This is not about how to NOT be late, it is about how I try to think WHEN I am late.)
For those who follow Christ, Sunday corporate worship is essential. It’s something we look forward to all week long. On a completely temporal level for moms with little kiddos, it can be a chance to drop them off in the nursery or Sunday school and fix your mind on eternal truths while briefly leaving behind the immediacy of diapers, feedings, discipline and endless questions.
Bottom line, we have every reason to want to be on time or even early for church.
But… sometimes we wake up late. Sometimes we’re completely unprepared from Saturday night. Sometimes a toddler chooses an inopportune time to decide he doesn’t like eggs. Sometimes fixing four heads of hair takes longer than you planned on. Sometimes you have to take a different route because of a bike race. It seems like every force in the universe is plotting to thwart your plans to be on time.
#1 – Being late happens.
The most discouraging mornings for me are the ones where I had everything completely prepared, where I got up ridiculously early, where nothing catastrophic happened… and still I was late. How many times I have complained in my mind, What’s the point of trying so hard if I’m still going to be late?
No, you’re not a failure. No, it will not be this way forever no matter what. No, it was not a waste to try hard. Easy to write on a Monday night, but very hard to tell yourself on a Sunday morning.
Which brings me to the next thought.
#2 – Every truth that you’re going to church to celebrate and rehearse is changed NOT AT ALL by the fact that you’re late.
Just recently I’ve learned to think about this as I get the girls ready and drive to church on a morning where I know we’ll be late. The glory of Christ’s work on the cross, the grace of God in forgiving and adopting His enemies, the comfort of the Spirit teaching us every day, the hope of an eternity with Jesus as King of Kings – all of these are steadfast truths that will never change. To imagine that somehow my little being-late escapade has any impact in eternal matters is laughable. I have to make a concentrated effort to think on things that are true and good.
To beat myself up over such a thing is really just an odd symptom of self-centeredness. Believe me, on many occasions through the singing or teaching at church, the Holy Spirit has gently shown me where I was wrong, or careless, or uninterested, which caused the circumstances around being late. But I have to let Him do that. Punishing myself over being late just clouds my mind from the One who can truly search my heart. And sometimes honestly, God just gives you a peace that it was just the way it was that day and it’s okay. See #1. = )
#3 – Being late is not an excuse to sin against your children.
To ask my three-year-old who is accustomed to thirty minutes for breakfast to hurry and eat in seven is just not wise. Ashamedly, I have been through so many Sunday morning breakfast’s where I have constantly been saying, “Girls, be quiet. We have to eat. Stop talking, we have to eat. Eat faster. We only have two minutes left!” (to finish three-quarters of a plate) Not going to happen.
Lately, the Lord has been teaching me to truly own when something is my fault and not to place the blame or the burden of hurrying in this case on my girls. I need to give them plenty of time to eat. Either that or have a really good back-up eat-in-the-car plan. (which usually doesn’t work anyway) Complete aside: Did you know my kids won’t even Pop-Tarts fast on a Sunday morning? Oh, the strategies I have tried to save time. Seriously! They didn’t even eat the Pop-Tarts. Like I’m giving you sugar you’re normally not allowed to have, but nope.
But I digress. When one of them comes to me crying and stomping because she can’t get her arm through her sleeve (and is not really even trying because of a bad attitude) I still have to respond with kindness and wisdom. Patience doesn’t get temporarily marked off the list from 7-10 on Sunday morning.
One of the biggest reasons I want to have everything ready for Sunday morning is so my girls can remember it as a time of joy, of looking forward to going to church together. I don’t want it to be a time of snapping and nagging, of empty stomachs and rumpled clothes all in the name of keeping up appearances for this weekly event.
When the mornings come where I know we’ll be late, I have to choose to still be like Christ. To still let the gospel adorn my speech and actions inside this house where only the little people see. I hope that His kindness and love is what they will remember.
#4 – Understand that others probably understand.
I have a particular problem with my pride where being late is concerned. I’m a pastor’s wife and I should be able to get there on time, right? I love to be early. I want to see people and talk to them and not have to slip in like a loser five minutes after everything has started. I don’t want people to think that I don’t care. But when I apologize all over myself or refuse to be consoled by people who assure me it was like that for them at this time of life, I’m really just revealing how concerned with my image I am.
Life will move on. Another chance to be on time will come in just seven more days. More than likely I’m a harder judge of myself than those around me. Get over it and keep going.
One of the biggest benefits of controlling your mind when you’re tempted to bottom out because of being late is that it helps you to enter into the worship service sooner. This is what I mean: when I (89% of the time) am so upset over being late, I have to spend a lot of the Sunday school or worship hour getting over the usual mental clutter that comes with being late. Which means I am completely deaf to the truths being sung or taught. I’m oblivious to the help and comfort that is right around me. However, when I set my mind to rejoice anyways, or maybe to be late rather than getting upset at my kids… I can sit down in the service and begin soaking it in immediately.
This in the long run is much more beneficial than being punctual but frazzled or grumpy.
Now, if you think I’m trying to just make excuses for being late, I’m not. There are so many reasons to be early, and I promise I try every single week to be early. In fact, it was one of my New Year’s Goals and there’s actually been a lot of improvement. Yay!
I could write an equally long post about what I do to try to be early; things that have worked and have not worked -like the Pop-Tarts. But one, there’s already posts out there like that, and two, I think it’s important to think through how we respond even when things don’t go according to our desires or plans.
This may seem like a tiny topic, but I have found it to have a huge impact on my Sunday’s, my family, and my week.
Thanks for reading my thoughts; I’d love to hear yours!
2 thoughts on “Thoughts for when you’re late to church on Sunday morning”
Thanks for posting this! I’m a bit of a pedant with being early so I don’t always have this problem, but I can see it increasingly becoming a problem as my little boy grows older (and if we potentially add more kids into the equation at some point). I suppose one thing I like about NOT being late is that it sends a certain message to my kids about the importance of being punctual, but then again, things do happen sometimes! I find that the more I try to rush, the more agitated I get and the more it really just spoils my day! Whereas if I just keep going with the flow, and arrive at church, I tend to be able to focus on the message better and just have a more positive outlook on the day. So, in other words, I agree with you that sometimes it’s okay to be late, so long as you keep your heart centred on Christ (and I’m sure our kids will appreciate that we’re in a better mood). 🙂