There is beautiful symbolism in having young families at church.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, fasting is a regular part of our worship. Considering the importance the Bible places on fasting I have always found it odd that this is not true of more Christian religions and that it rarely comes up in conversations comparing our beliefs with those of other variants of Christianity. That said, fasting is just the context for this post, not its topic.
In the church the tradition is to have one sabbath of each month devoted to fasting and sharing extemporaneous witnesses of personal faith. Yesterday was such a Fast and Testimony meeting. Because the thoughts shared are extemporaneous and unplanned, there is often something of an interrupted flow; a lull where none are speaking, then a rush of four or five waiting their turn, and so on. One of the gaps yesterday was unusually long, lasting more than a minute.
For many years I attended congregations known in the church as “young single adult wards” or simply “singles’ wards”. These are marvelous institutions where young people are given the chance to lead and teach and grow while also fostering an environment conducive to finding a spiritually-compatible potential spouse. Because Mormons still follow the biblical injunction to “multiply and replenish the Earth” these congregations are about the only ones that do not ring with the cry of upset infants. Less than a year ago I began to attend instead a more general congregation and have found the cry of little voices once more the background noise throughout church.
During the long pause yesterday I found myself basking in the cacophony that most of the people there would have called “silence.” It soothed my soul. It also caused me to reflect on an analogy I had not considered before.
In the eyes of God, we are probably all an unruly horde of noisy infants. And there is no doubt some displeasure on his part in noticing that some of us cause a lot more problems than others. But while trying to teach a fussy baby to sit quiet is valuable, there is no real fear that the baby will continue to scream in church for decades to come. As one who frequently feels acutely how very much I am not acting as well as my Father wishes I were, this thought was a very comforting thought indeed.
Right on its tails came another. Babies are welcome in church, and in the same church meetings were the best of mortals are also welcome. I’ve heard dozens of analogies on this topic before, the most popular being “church isn’t a club for perfect people, it’s a hospital for the spiritually sick” but this thought about infants resonated more than the others for me. God has a plan that is good for us all, the infants and the ancient, the rambunctious and the rebellious and the pure. I needn’t worry about how mature or immature I am now; I need only participate in and strive to live up to God’s plan. I am welcome in His home both as I am and as I hope to become.
I have the uncomfortable feeling that I failed to connect in what I wrote above. Not so much so as to erase the post and try something else, but it doesn’t have that satisfying feel that some of my posts do when I think I have captured the nub and gist in a few paragraphs. Hopefully, though, it communicated enough to benefit some one of you.