Preacher? Mama? Preacher Mama.
Get Behind Me Satan
My children were young. Kid #1 must have been around six or seven. Kid #2 is three years younger. Both of their parents are preachers. Poor kids!
There was a brief moment in Kid #1’s life when I attended the church where Hubby preached. I took the crayons, snacks, etc. I taught the kid, as best I could, how and why we recite the creeds and sing the hymns. It was short-lived because I am called to preach too. That means that for most of our kids’ lives, Dad has been in one pulpit and Mom has been in another. And, for the most part, the kids have attended church wherever I was preaching. There are lots of reasons for this that have to do with travel time among other things, but generally they chose to come with me. And, I liked it that way.
Most of the time.
For a while I preached at an older church building in a small town about an hour from our house. Hubby would get up and help me get the kids ready for church then we would take off. At the time Hubby was preaching two hours from home! The kids had been in church from their first days. They had learned the rituals. They understood the expectations.
All kids push the boundaries when they see an opening.
This particular church’s pulpit was one of those raised pulpits. As I stood in the pulpit preaching, I was looking down at the congregation. Two of those faces belonged to my children sitting on the front row. (Sometimes Kid #2 would come sit on the floor right behind me while I preached.)
On this particular Sunday, the scripture was that one when Jesus tells Peter “Get behind me Satan.” Pretty well-known in Christian circles. I had heard it all my life, but in studying for that week’s sermon, I noticed that what Peter had done that made Jesus so angry was treat him like a child. The word used is “rebuke” and I focused in on that particular word for some reason that day. I get loud and emote a lot when I preach. Some men like to call it “shrill.” But that is beside the point.
The point I was making was that Peter had “rebuked” Jesus which is to say that Peter, the follower, had treated Jesus, the leader, like a child. The original language connotes something a parent would do to a child.
On that day, I was preaching up a storm, y’all. And, every few minutes when my eyes fall on my own children in the front pew, Kid #1 is making faces at me. For a bit, I ignore it. It is clear he wants a reaction. It is VERY DISTRACTING, so I just call him out. In the middle of talking about that word “rebuke,” I have to stop and say to my own child, “Okay, that is enough. Please be still and quiet until I’m finished.”
That didn’t work. Kid #1 was really pushing some boundaries. Now there were faces drawn on pieces of paper being held up to me. Kid #2 thought it all hilarious. I stopped again.
“I know you think I won’t come down there because we are in front of all these people, but I will. This is your final warning. Be still. Be quiet. Stop trying to distract me.”
I went on preaching about Jesus turning to rebuke Peter.
I don’t remember the final thing he did. I know it was a distraction not only to me but to everyone in the sanctuary.
“Preaching. Preaching. Preaching. Excuse me, y’all, I have to rebuke my own child now.”
And, I left the pulpit! I didn’t think one thing about it. I didn’t stop to weigh the consequences. I came out of the pulpit down the chancel steps and by the time I hit the sanctuary floor, that child had run OUT the side door and down a hallway. I ran too. I got through the door, closed it, took a couple more steps and yelled,
“You better stop right there! Do you realize what has just happened? I have just LEFT IN THE MIDDLE OF A SERMON because of your behavior! Now, you better walk back in here now or every birthday gift you just got on your birthday will be taken away!”
He slowly made his way back to me. I made him apologize to the congregation before he took his seat on the front row again. I headed back up into the pulpit, made some comment about that being an example of the way in which Peter tried to treat Jesus then Jesus put him in his place, picked up in the middle of the sentence I had left off and finished the sermon.
Kid #1 doesn’t like for me to bring it up. It makes me wonder what his memory of the whole ordeal is. He could have a completely different perspective. If I can ever get him to talk about it, I’ll ask him for his. Maybe twelve years is long enough, though I can imagine him saying, “Too soon!”
There is a Facebook page called “Things They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary.” This experience falls into that category. It wasn’t in the What To Do When You Are Expecting book either. I wonder why I love it so.
I think that may have been the day one of the long-time (and I mean LONG-TIME) church members decided he couldn’t sit in the congregation “under that preacher” any longer. I don’t know for sure. He didn’t speak directly with me. The mothers did, though. In a way, I had never been surrounded by this particular congregation before, the mothers made a circle around me before I could even get to the back of the sanctuary after worship. They patted me on the back and told me how proud they were that I would do what a mother needed to do.
Maybe that is why I love it. That day it felt like I really could do it all. I could preach, chase my kid down a hallway, and keep preaching all while teaching my kids what I think was a valuable lesson — you may think you can embarrass Mom at work, but she has worked too hard for that. She is a lot stronger — and a lot faster — than she looks.