After I had my first baby, church suddenly got really hard. I spent much of the three-hour block nursing my tiny daughter in the mothers’ lounge, bouncing her in the halls, and changing diapers in the bathroom. My husband helped out as much as he could–we took turns attending classes and fulfilling our respective callings–but Sundays were no longer the peaceful spiritual days they had once been. I’m sure our experience is not unique; anyone who has spent a Sabbath wrangling children knows it’s not really a day of rest.
And so when I read the first verse of this hymn, I laughed out loud.
When the rosy light of morning
Softly beams above the hill,
And the birds, sweet heav’nly songsters,
Ev’ry dell with music fill,
Fresh from slumber we awaken;
Sunshine chases clouds away.
Nature breathes her sweetest fragrance
On the holy Sabbath day.
It sounds so idyllic…and so dramatically different from what my Sundays feel like.
During that first year of new parenthood especially, I spent a lot of time resenting anyone who (as far as I could tell) had no reason to be wandering the halls instead of attending Sunday School. There I was, stuck with a crying baby and in desperate need of a solid dose of gospel doctrine and adult interaction, and those ungrateful people were skipping class just because they could! How dare they! I could not understand how something that felt so important to me was so unappreciated by others. I seethed at church and cried at home.
In my defense, I was really really tired.
Since that time we’ve added another baby to our family. Church is still hard. I miss Sunday School more often than not. I imagine things will only continue in that vein for several more years at least. But my attitude toward church–and the people who wander the halls–has changed.
For a good and glorious purpose
Thus we meet each Sabbath day,
Each one striving for salvation
Thru the Lord’s appointed way.
Earnest toil will be rewarded;
Zealous hearts need not repine.
God will not withhold his blessings
From the eager, seeking mind.
“The Lord’s appointed way” for us to “strive for salvation” includes gathering together on the Sabbath and partaking of the sacrament. The way our meetings have been structured has changed over the years, but the purpose is the same: to renew covenants and strengthen testimonies. If you’re present for the bread and water, you’ve got the former pretty well covered. The latter isn’t always as structured, though. Sometimes it happens in Sunday School. Sometimes it happens in the mothers’ lounge. Sometimes it happens as you do laps around the building or chat with a friend in the foyer or read your scriptures in the back of class.
What I’m saying is, we all have our reasons for attending or not attending our classes. If our hearts are in the right place–we are earnestly toiling and eagerly seeking to learn and feel the spirit–God will reward our efforts. As a new mother, my heart was zealous in desiring to feel the spirit, but I spent more time repining than seeking God’s blessings in ways that worked with my current circumstances. When I stopped complaining and started making the best of a tough situation, my Sabbath experiences improved.
Let us then press boldly onward,
Prove ourselves as soldiers true.
He will lead us; he will guide us.
Come, there’s work for all to do,
Never tiring, never doubting,
Boldly struggling to the end.
In the world, tho foes assail us,
God will surely be our friend.
I’ve learned to “press boldly onward” and stop doubting that my weekly struggle is worth it. My toddler’s favorite song now is “I Am a Child of God.” My baby is learning to fold her arms when we pray. We’re doing the best we can to teach our girls that God is their friend. Our family is stronger because Sabbath worship–whatever it looks like from week to week–is important to us.
That said, I still look forward to the day when I can attend Sunday School uninterrupted. If you have that opportunity, enjoy it. Take advantage of it. Put away the Angry Birds and Facebook for an hour and really listen to what your teacher has prepared for you.
Then away, haste away!
Come away to the Sunday School!
Then away, do not delay!
Come away to the Sunday School!
God will lead and guide you, protect you from worldly foes that would tear you down, and will not withhold his blessings when you are in need. That’s the testimony I have gained from not attending Sunday School. Amen.