Last Sunday I preached. It was an unusual circumstance. The pastor of the church was present. She just needed the Sunday off from the pulpit after a week at an out of town gathering. I preached Ruth 1:1-18, which is a text I like a lot (but not for the usual reasons). I had some trouble writing it, though, as I should have expected. I never like sermons that I write on favorite texts. It’s like they are my favorite songs and I can never quite sing them up to snuff.
In a desperation move, I used a Selam story at the end of the sermon. I asked her–three times and she said yes. I read her the story the way I planned to tell it. It wasn’t an embarrassing story. She was cool with it. I very rarely preach about her. I can remember only two other times, and one of those was really about her kindergarten class, not her.
You see where this is leading, right? She got embarrassed.
Let me back up. First thing that happened is that we got there early and right away she met two older girls and started playing with them. Normally, what we do is that before I talk with the elder or deacon who is waiting for me, I take 5 minutes with her in the sanctuary and show her where I’ll be, where she’ll be, and read her the order of things that will happen, so she knows if there’s a children’s sermon and if there are songs that she recognizes. I didn’t do that, though, because she was playing. Then right before the service, she decided that she wanted to sit with these two girls who sat on the opposite side of the sanctuary, near their family members who were in the choir.
Well, as the service began, I was able to witness what I could have predicted: the older girls knew how to read and could participate in worship. Selam is just beginning to read and can’t read fast enough to participate. Normally, she doesn’t care. She draws pictures or reads books. But with the big girls present, she cared. So she slid off her chair and started crawling on the floor. Every once in a while I saw her get up and down, or I saw her little legs kicking in the air as she laid on her back on the floor, making her boredom (which was really feeling left out, I think) well known.
Fortunately, the regular pastor was there, so I didn’t have to be “on” for the whole service. During the passing of the peace, I was able to beeline over to her and remind her that if she couldn’t be alone, she could come sit with me.
In the middle of the children’s sermon, she came over to whisper to me that she wanted to go play with the stuffed animals that she had seen in the lobby. Really? (They were part of a display for the Heifer animals that the congregation had purchased). After the children’s sermon, she came and sat with me. Unfortunately, only a few minutes later, I had to leave her for the sub-par sermon.
The pastor moved over to keep Selam company and I thought all would be well. Until I got to the story about her. Then, she covered her face with her dress. And cried.
And I felt AWFUL. The whole choir saw it happen, but I don’t know that others noticed. But even if nobody did, I felt like such a horrible mom.
We went to a birthday party after the service, and out to dinner after that. On the ride back, she slept in the car, and I thought it over. Clearly I dropped the ball.I should have stuck to our ritual. I should have known that big girls in church are not a good companion for her. I have always said I would preach using her life only rarely and only with permission. I guess I should have added a third caveat–only when she’s not there.
It doesn’t matter. I won’t be preaching about her anymore. And I question whether or not I should continue the blog, though I am loathe to leave it.
I don’t know. I don’t know.