Sometimes I forget I’m raising a toddler. Yes, I know how crazy that sounds. After all, how do you really forget the tiny person at your heels all day every day? I don’t forget that I have a toddler; I forget I’m raising one.
My girl is super smart. She occupies herself well, generally follows instructions, knows what she wants and usually knows how to ask us for it. So it’s easy to think that she should always follow instructions, that her little “yeah” always really means yes, or that she can use her small but growing vocabulary to string together words to tell me what’s bothering her instead of throwing a tantrum. Sometimes I forget she’s not even two yet. I need to be patient and teach her what I want her to do, how to behave, how to communicate. And I need to expect that there will be some bumps along that road for both of us.
In worship we need to remember that we’re raising littles to know and love Jesus. Little people with short attention spans, loud voices and wiggly feet. Little people who are learning, absorbing and mimicking. Sunday mornings might be a little less stressful if we keep our expectations in check.
We can, and should, have great expectations of our kids. We can expect them to use quiet voices, sit for a few minutes, walk instead of run. If we don’t expect something from them, we’ll get nothing from them, and we all wind up frustrated. We get frustrated that the kids are going wild and they get frustrated when we get impatient and upset with their behavior. So we need to hold our kids to a decent standard in worship, but we need to communicate them, work our tails off to teach our kids what they are, and then be okay with starting small.
Baby steps. I can’t expect my toddler to sit still through an entire worship service. Clearly, that’s unrealistic. But I can expect her to sit on the pew for a good portion of the sermon. So we anticipate the wiggles and break out the snacks or she gets a new activity every few minutes to keep her from trying to jump off the pew. Little by little, my little will learn that for those minutes we sit quietly.
I can’t expect my baby to be completely silent for an hour. I need to go into worship prepared for her to make some noise. But I can also teach her what’s appropriate noise for church and that we don’t need to yell and scream. Little by little, she’ll learn what’s acceptable and not in worship.
We worship a God who placed perfection as His expectation for us. Perfection. I’m far from perfect, and I’m guessing you’re not anywhere close either. Sin prevents us from being the flawless people God calls us to be. God didn’t lower the bar because He knew we couldn’t meet it; He sent someone who could be perfect in our place. Jesus’ life and death satisfied everything our lives never could. His rising sealed our eternity with God when by faith we trust that Jesus is enough. God’s grace is amazing and unending. And it’s exactly what we need when we fail to meet God’s great expectations of us.
Great expectations for small kids. It’s tough. It requires a huge amount of patience and understanding on our parts. It means we set reasonable expectations for our kids and slowly help them grow. It means we rely heavily on God’s grace when our patience gets lost during the opening song – grace for us and our kids. Expect the best and be prepared for the worst, but always be ready to teach and train and love. There will be bumps along the road for us and them, but little by little they’ll learn, and so will we.