By Carrie Bentley
I knew it was going to be a long morning from the very moment I sat down on the church pew. My three boys, Sam, Tim, and Emmett (ages 6, 4, and 1 at the time) had the wiggles. Only a week had passed since we had trick-or-treated for buckets of candy, and all that residual sugar was clearly having a cumulative effect.
Early in the church service, I took all three of them out into the hallway. I quietly threatened that if they didn’t behave, I would take away all the candy. ALL OF THE CANDY. I made eye contact with each boy. They understood. I marched them back to our pew. Sam, the oldest, grabbed a hymnal and started reading.
My youngest, Emmett, has always been good at waiting for a diversion before he misbehaves so he can prolong his adventures before he gets caught. He sat on the floor, quietly minding his own business while I kept one hand on the middle boy, Tim, who hadn’t slowed down a bit. He bounced loudly around between his brothers. I leaned in to whisper another warning about the candy. For some reason, he didn’t seem to care about his candy.
Emmett noticed that I was busy dealing with Tim and made his move. With a quick roll, he was under the pew in front of me and free. Moms don’t roll under pews. This put me at a distinct time disadvantage and created an incredibly fun game of keep-away. I didn’t feel like chasing him that morning, so I just let him go. I hoped he would just totter around the aisles and quietly amuse himself.
I made the wrong choice. Emmett walked to the front of the church where his dad, the pastor, was preaching. He stood there a few seconds before he grabbed the railing with both hands and started playing a version of the hokey pokey with the bars. He put his head in. He pulled his head out. He put his head in and he crouched down, where the railing was just a bit narrower. His head got stuck. He silently tried again to pull it out. Still stuck. He let out a loud squawk of disapproval. By now, all eyes were on the boy stuck in the altar railing. Even Tim was silent and watching. At least Emmett was easier to catch when he was trapped.
Looking back on the story, I can see the humor. It illustrates just why I take my kids to church. I want them to feel so comfortable there that faith gets stuck in their heads. I want them to live lives of service and learn to care for others. Week after week we hear stories of God working in our world and the ways we all get to be a part of this good work.
On that morning, however, when we walked back into our house, I wasn’t feeling quite as introspective and generous. I demanded all the Halloween candy. Even Emmett knew this was fair. He and Sam went to collect their buckets to hand over. Tim, however, just looked at me with a smile and simply stated, “Mom, you can’t have my candy. I already ate it all, so I knew I didn’t have to be good!”