I have a vivid memory of the day I decided to leave church. I sat alone in an enormous crowd of people. I had friends there, but for some reason that day they were not beside me. I’d just faced another disappointing relationship that I’d hoped might finally lead to marriage. Families with beautiful children surrounded me. My own family was in another state. Lonelier than lonely, I heard the pastor call for families that were dedicating babies to come forward.
Several couples walked onto the platform carrying their precious babies, accompanied by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other assorted family. A toddler tried desperately to get away from her father while her baby sister was dedicated, making it a little difficult to hear the pastor’s words. Tears sprung into my eyes and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I tried to sit there like I always had, tried to quietly pray and whisper promises to God about how I’d raise my children to serve Him if He’d please send my husband. But all I could think was how blessed that frustrated father was to have a wiggly toddler and a newborn.
Right in the middle of the service I gathered my things and walked out. Sobbing, I drove home and vowed that unless I had my own children, I’d never sit through another tortuous baby dedication ceremony again. And I didn’t. Every time I realized that’s what was happening at church, I left. I went shopping or treated myself to a gourmet bagel or whatever. I just didn’t want to feel my heart bleed like that again. Leaving was my way of being kind to myself.
About 9 months ago my prayers were answered. It was finally my turn to walk up front carrying my own precious baby, my husband by my side. Two sets of grandparents, great-grandparents, and other family stood with us. Extended family surrounded us in the pews. Even better, I was two months pregnant with our second child. It was a wonderful moment. Afterward we had a big party with family and friends to celebrate.
On the last Sunday in June of this year (2014), we were able to dedicate our son to the Lord in a similar service. My mom and several aunts, uncles, and cousins were in town for another event, so we had a lot of family around us.
I’d planned a brunch for our family members after the service and had been very busy getting everything ready for the party. On the day before I put out our outfits, making sure they were cleaned and ironed and we knew where the shoes and accessories were. I’d cleaned and cooked and planned. I wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible on Sunday morning. But I worked so hard that I was exhausted. Instead of having a relaxing morning, I overslept and raced around trying to get everyone ready. Hot and sweaty, at the last minute I decided to change my outfit, tried to fix my hair, and slapped on some makeup while Rick drove us the 5 minutes to church.
In the middle of all that stress, Rick didn’t say what I wanted him to say. He didn’t do exactly what I wanted him to do. In hindsight, it’s pretty silly, but at the time I got upset. He had the audacity to tell me I was being ridiculous, so I blew up. About to stand in front of our church family and dedicate our son to Christ, we were at each other’s throats. He was angry with me for blowing things out of proportion and I was furious with him for being insensitive.
Five minutes before we were supposed to walk on stage, my fury turned to tears. Dripping with tears and still sweating, I got some tissues from my mother-in-law and attempted to mop myself up before we walked on stage. It didn’t work and I was a soppy mess. It was time to go and I carried Charlie onto the platform, Rick carried Eliana, and our family joined us. I continued to wipe tears.
My tears were out of regret for my actions that morning, but they were also sadness that Rick was insensitive, joy that we had two children to give back to the Lord, and relief that I was no longer the aging single woman who was terrified that my child-bearing years were slipping by. I was overwhelmed by the blessing that is my imperfectly perfect husband. I was thrilled to have my mother standing beside me, healthy and cancer-free. I felt gratitude that Charlie will be raised right down the road from two loving grandparents, in the same town as his great-grandparents, and in the same state as his aunt and uncle. The blessing of the adorable little guy who squirmed in my arms was awesome.
And so my swirling emotions leaked down my cheeks.
I answered “yes” as the pastor asked if I would raise my son as a Christian, if I’d support him even if God called him to the ends of the earth. I gladly handed him over as the pastor held him and prayed a blessing over him. It was my turn to give my child back to the Lord. Again. God had been faithful.
Rick and I quickly made up once the tension of the morning was over. We apologized and said what the other needed to hear. I finally stopped sweating. We went back to the house and had a great time feasting, talking, and playing video games. We took pictures and laughed at the boys who decided to climb the tree in the front yard. We threw Eliana in the bathtub when she had an enormously messy diaper and soaked her pretty dress. We passed the baby around, played Dutch Blitz, and drank too much coffee. It was a good day.
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In 2 ½ years I’ve left behind the lonely, boring, fear-filled days of sitting alone in church and have become a woman with a family. A woman who is no longer lonely or bored, no longer fears the end of my child-bearing years, and who gets all the messiness that goes along with a family. My mash up of emotions, over-reactions, and stress were all the result of the beautiful blessing of this family God has given me. We aren’t perfect, but we’re alive and thriving and growing.
In light of all that, I’d call Sunday, June 29, 2014, a perfect day.