[Today’s guest post is from April Fiet. She’s wise, caring and knows how to put the two together.]
When my oldest child was a few months old, I took him to the nursery at our church for the first time.
My husband and I are co-pastors, and it was my Sunday to preach. My oldest child had, up until that time, been able to stay in the service with us while we co-led worship, but he was beginning to be mobile enough that it was no longer easy to keep him with us and juggle our leadership roles.
As a first-time parent of a child who had never had a babysitter, I was nervous to leave him with someone. On the flip side, I wanted him to be well cared for while being able to do my job. So, I took him to the nursery where the attendant assured me he’d be just fine. I knew he would be, but I was still concerned about how things would go. I swallowed my worry and handed my baby to the woman. My child immediately started screaming.
“Go ahead and go. It’s always the worst when you drop the child off. He’ll be over it in a minute,” she assured me.
With my eyes full of tears and my mind full of “what ifs,” I went into the sanctuary to prepare myself. The organ started playing the prelude. I took a few deep, cleansing breaths, and I prayed that God would take care of my little boy and give me the peace to be able to lead worship.
At first, everything seemed to be going well. No one had come to tell me they needed me to come get my child. I couldn’t hear him crying anymore. Everything was going to be just fine. The worship service began. We prayed. We sang hymns. We read the morning Scripture lessons. I gathered my notes and ascended the stairs to the pulpit, opened my Bible, and started my sermon.
That’s when it happened.
I could hear my son screaming at the top of his lungs.* It was that kind of cry that gets under your skin and frazzles your nerves. I could hear him wailing , and I was absolutely helpless to do anything about it. I tried to preach. I tried to follow my notes. I tried to speak slowly enough that people could still hear every word…but quickly enough that I could finish up and go get my child.
I started sweating. My heart was pounding. My ears were ringing. No matter how loudly I preached, the only thing I could hear was my baby who needed me. I have no idea what kind of a sermon was actually preached, no clue if any of it made sense. I ended with an “Amen,” and did the quickest run-walk down the center aisle of the sanctuary I could manage, you know the hurried run-walk where you’re also trying not to make a sound or draw attention to yourself – both of which I’m sure I failed at.
I went to the nursery and got my baby. He calmed down immediately when he was in my arms. He stopped crying, and I started crying.
Even though I have found co-pastoring and co-parenting to be the best of both worlds most of the time, this particular memory is etched in my mind. It was the moment I realized that my best laid ministry and parenting plans couldn’t be plans laid in cement. At most, they were suggestions that would have to change if a child woke up ill on a Sunday morning, or a pastoral emergency came up, or something else happened outside of my control.
That Sunday morning began with me taking my child to the nursery, but it ended with me realizing that co-pastoring was not going to be neat and tidy. Co-pastoring with small children is a beautiful thing, to be sure, but it is also constantly evolving and changing as the needs of our family evolve and change. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even though I’ve had to trade in many of my expectations for what life and ministry would be like. Changing has been hard at times, but the end result has always been worth it.
*I seem to have super human hearing, especially for high-pitched noises. I’ve heard bats in our wall (in our parsonage several years back) before anyone else knew they were there. My husband is a very involved father – and if he would have heard our baby, he’d have gone to get him. The nursery attendant must not have thought the situation was bad enough to merit coming to get me, and no one else in the service told me they could hear him cry. I’ll just have to chalk it up to my sensitive ears.