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I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me.
I needed this.
I needed to worship God today.
It had been a rough week and I craved participation in the fellowship of believers as we all raised our voices in praise to God. I wanted to squeeze every ounce of inspiration out of the worship service, so I did something I hadn’t been able to do in years….
I closed my eyes, shut out the distractions, and sang loudly and enthusiastically.
Next to me, my 3-year old daughter was busy arranging a tea party for her Disney princess figurines. In a few moments, when the sermon started, I would reach into the church ‘busy bag’ and pull out the iPad. Then, for the next 30 to 40 minutes, Sweet Pea would be quietly engrossed in all manner of electronic, age appropriate games. Yes, I let my child use the iPad during church.
WAIT! HOLD ON! WHAT DID YOU SAY?!!!!!
I know what you are thinking. What kind of horrible mother am I that I let my daughter play on the iPad during worship services? I know… I see your disapproving eye roll, the cluck of the tongue. I hear the whispering about how I just need to get control of my daughter and teach her to sit still now so that she will learn reverence, etc… blah blah blah.
I know what you are thinking because until a few weeks ago, those were the things I said to myself.
I believed that the iPad was too much.. too much distraction for worship service (even if the volume was turned off), too much entertainment, too easy… too much. I set a standard for myself and my daughter that might have been noble, but also maybe a little misguided.
You see, I had had enough. For the past 3 years and change, every Sunday morning worship service was spent in service to my daughter. First it was missing significant portions of worship to nurse. Then, nursing gave way to solid foods, diaper changes, and the morning nap.
Soon enough, Sweet Pea started walking and discovered that when everyone was quiet in the auditorium, should could hear her voice loud and clear. So, we spent a good year and a half training her to just sit in one place and not scream.
Even now, there is never a worship service without distractions. Going potty, sitting in my lap, eating a snack, needing a crayon, going potty, going potty again.. getting a drink of water. It never ends.
Here is the problem: the past three years have left me spiritually fragile, weak, … hungry.
I tended to my daughter’s spiritual nourishment at the expense of my own. A few months ago I recognized the dire situation I was in.
I was depressed, irritable, unable to focus. I felt incredibly isolated, overwhelmed, and sad.
I had lost my joy.
Training a child to behave during church is a noble pursuit. However, giving in to the iPad is not admitting defeat. I am not abandoning my responsibilities to spiritually train my daughter.
But I am updating that strategy to include the responsibility I have to tend to my own spiritual care as well.
Sometimes it is not only ok, it is necessary, to be ‘spiritually selfish.’
Sometimes You Just Have to Be ‘Spiritually Selfish’
The concept of being ‘spiritually selfish’ seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? I don’t really think God views the act of performing spiritual ‘self-care’ as a bad thing though. Look at the example of Mary and Martha as a guide to how we should act. Jesus admonished Martha to ‘choose what is better.‘ Based on that admonition, you could make a compelling argument that Jesus would consider what I did during worship service a valid, and even preferred, choice.
Anytime you fly in an airplane, you hear a similar admonition: Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. This concept has informed a lot of the recent dialogue on the importance of parents (Moms in particular) to attend to their own care as a way to better care for others.
Why would our spiritual life be any different?
I imagine that things could have been a lot different for our family if Sweet Pea was not such an independent little spitfire. But that is not our reality. Our little firecracker will never be compliant… unless she is unconscious. We don’t want to break her.. we want to mold her. After three years of training, she is doing pretty well I think. She mostly behaves in worship service now. She understands the consequences for being a stinker. She is encouraged to actively participate.
But I am not prepared to wage WWIII every week just to enforce a draconian standard of behavior that I arbitrarily came up with.
At three years old, I want my daughter to have a positive association with church and with Christianity. I want her to know about the love of Jesus, that God is awesome, and that the Bible contains stories about God.
That is what we can handle at three years old.
So, a few weeks ago I introduced the iPad into the mix… and it was like a miracle!
For the first time in three years, I was able to get spiritually fed during a worship service:
- I could sing an entire song without being interrupted.
- I could actually hear most, if not all, of a sermon.
- I could actually think about something other than goldfish crackers during the Lord’s Supper.
This past year was really rough for our family. We limped into the New Year knowing that we needed to heal.
Allowing myself to be ‘spiritually selfish’ has done more to heal my heart and soul than just about anything else. It has been a game-changer.
Just to be clear– this isn’t just about letting a preschooler play Pepi Bath during a sermon. There are much broader implications.
So, now I need to ask you— Do you need permission to be a little ‘spiritually selfish’ as well?
- Maybe you have taught Sunday Bible School for years… every week, no break. Take a break. Give someone else a chance to serve. Attend a class and get fed.
- Perhaps you volunteer to bring meals to anyone and everyone who has a need. However, right now your life is too much. Too busy, too chaotic. Slow down. Instead of filling a slot on the meal calendar, why don’t you invite a friend out for coffee so that you can reconnect?
- You are the master planner. People constantly seek you out because they know if you are involved, the event will get done right. However, all of your church busyness has created a distance between you and your husband. Bow out of the next event. They may think they need you, but there is surely someone else with organizational skills. On the other hand, your husband really does need you. Attend to him instead. Plan a weekend getaway… or just carve out time to talk.
- From the moment you wake up until the moment you lay your head on the pillow at night, your kids come to you with every single demand, need, wish, and desire they could possibly have. You can’t even close your eyes for a moment of peace.. the kids just need you. Remember that oxygen mask? Well, the kids may need you… but you need God. It’s OK… let them watch a little TV. Let them wait. Grab 15 minutes and spend some time with the Creator. Let Him center you and give you the internal peace and strength you will need to parent the rest of the day with love and grace.
It’s OK to be ‘spiritually selfish’ from time to time. It is hard to let go of service to others and look inward to your own spiritual needs. However, if you never put yourself first, you could risk losing that spiritual center… and then the rest of the issues won’t even matter.
So, let your kid play games on the iPad. The iPad isn’t winning, you are. Shore up your spiritual strength, because trust me… sooner or later, you will need that strength to weather the storms of life.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you have a blessed week,
Would you like more spiritual encouragement? Check out this link (or click on the picture) for women’s Bible studies, devotionals, and inspirational pictures.