During my adult life, much of my family has been scattered around the world. While the distance is difficult, it makes reunions so sweet. One such reunion took place recently as my husband and I jetted off to sunny San Diego, the site of this summer’s family pilgrimage and home of my father. Upon arrival, I was greeted by many faces whom I dearly love, but one face in particular warmed my heart.
My almost four-year-old niece has lived out of the country for most of her life. I have only seen her a few times, but she is quite familiar with “Auntie Sarah” as she has received my love in the form of care packages over the past three years. Her smile and high-pitched squeal of excitement to finally be united once again made me feel like the happiest person in San Diego. (That’s saying a lot because San Diego makes people really happy).
Over the course of our visit, we talked about many things. I learned about her hopes, passions, and fears as I saw her eager anticipation mastering the skill of swimming, watched her eyes light up at the sight or sound of any emergency vehicle, and wiped her tears when she discovered the absence of a seat belt on the big bus at the zoo. Really, what were those bus engineers thinking? In between these magical moments, we witnessed her random declarations. She is aware of the importance of her words as the entire family turns their attention to her, pinches her cheeks, and stretches the corners of their mouths as far as they will go because no one elicits a bigger smile.
On day one of our trip, with all the energy she could muster, she proclaimed, “On Sundays we go to church!” I laughed and affirmed her declaration. Jealous of those who were able to attend my father’s church with her the previous Sunday, I imagined what an impact church must have made on her as she was still talking about it two days later. A police motorcycle drove by and our attention was quickly shifted until a few days later when once again she exclaimed, “On Sundays we go to church!” Here we were, four days removed, and she was still excited about next Sunday’s church excursion. Obviously such love for church warmed this pastor auntie’s heart, but it also elicited an unexpected emotion–jealousy.
I was jealous of her uninhibited love and desire for church. Before you look into ways to get me fired, hear me when I say I love church. I deeply love church. Church, however, for ministers often gives rise to anxiety and stress. In that moment, I allowed myself to participate in the excitement this little girl has for Sundays. Late Saturday night, as we made our journey home, I reminded myself of that voice proudly professing, “On Sundays we go to church!” I thought about what the next day held and came up with a million reasons to be excited. Communal gathering, worship, and transformation was going to take place in that church building the following morning. Why didn’t I always partake in this Saturday night reflection?
As ministers, let us not forget to celebrate Sunday. It is easy for us to become discouraged and distracted by the stress Sunday brings. We, at times, must step back and consider what this church business is all about and the activity of our churches in this world. I hope for you today that you might gain the perspective of a care free almost four-year-old. May we proudly proclaim today, tomorrow, and every day, “On Sundays we go to church!”
Sarah Greenfield is pastor for university students, First Baptist Church, Abilene, Texas.