One day I said to my daughter, “I’d rather you didn’t make that noise” and she said, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God.”
She wasn’t being cheeky, I suppose she just hadn’t heard the phrase “I would rather” very often, so it reminded her of Psalm 84v11, which at that time we had unceremoniously stuck to the kitchen wall (I recommend this kitchen wall tactic, by the way. If your children can read, they will rebuke/encourage you several times a day!).
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
I suppose I’d put this on the wall to remind myself of something which I am prone to forget – that it really is better serving the Lord than living a godless life.
Sadly, Sunday mornings seem to be the time when I particularly forget this. This is the Sunday paradox. I know it’s not just me who feels spiritually attacked on a Sunday morning. I’ve heard other people say it, too. And it’s not that I think, ‘Aw, all my friends are having a lie in’ (like I would ever get a lie in anyway!), or that I wish I were watching my child playing football in the cold (!!), or that we were taking advantage of cheap Sunday morning cinema tickets (they do them on Saturdays too).
It’s on Sundays that bickering is worse than usual, that shoes get lost and lentils get spilled (and, joking aside, that is just the adults). It’s on Sundays that you wish you had taken it a bit easier on Saturday, and also been more organised (both excellent ideas, incidentally) since now you and your husband have three responsibilities each to take care of at the church gathering – which is nine altogether if we count our children (which I suppose we should).
I’m sure it’s not just my Sunday morning inner dialogue that tends to be a mixture of this sort of thing:
“As if I haven’t got enough to do!”
“Oh no! Visitors!”
“I need to stop being so selfish!”
“I think I’ve had the least sleep out of everyone here.”
“Where are my children?”
“Will anyone even notice I’ve done this?”
“Where is my husband?!”
“I haven’t heard a sermon in two months.”
“My family is doing more harm than good here!”
“I need to get over myself!”
Maybe this doesn’t ring any bells. But for me, I have a whiney selfish voice arguing with a more rational, godly voice quite frequently, and no more so than on Sundays. I love my church, I really do – I’ve told you that before. It’s me that has the problem.
Sometimes being a mum can feel a bit like being a “doorkeeper” – it’s not high profile, and you don’t need any qualifications to do it (which might give the illusion that it’s easy). And on a Sunday, maybe your role is to pin your children down while your husband does something more high profile. Or maybe it’s taking them out of the service so that people can actually hear what’s going on. Or maybe you’re leading crèche so that other mums can hear what’s going on. These things are unlikely to win you much recognition, and sometimes you might wonder why you even bother turning up. Or you might wish things were just a little bit less stressful, and that for once you could listen to a sermon all the way through and that nobody would throw up on you or wet themselves or have a tantrum.
So how can I remember that it’s better to do these (often thankless, mundane) things than dwell in the tents of the wicked on a Sunday morning? Well according to Psalm 84, I need to remind myself of how good the Lord is. I need to treasure Him above all else – above the world, above recognition, above my own ego. That’s why I like to sing the Matt Redman song based on this Psalm, because as we’re singing it we’re surely preaching it to ourselves, lest we forget:
How lovely is your dwelling place,
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.