One of Those Nights
Have you ever had one of those days? The kind where the ball bounces opposite of your direction… over and over and over again. You know the saying “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”? Those kind of days. You know what I am talking about. This was one of those days.
We had just had Easter, a celebration of the greatest event in history, on Sunday. When you have a powerful experience like church on Easter is sure to deliver, you kind of expect it to resonate in your life for a while. Every year that I have been a Jesus follower it has done that for me. I walked out the church doors Easter Sunday with a more clear focus on Jesus than I remember having in a long time.
However, this one of those days that I am talking about was on Wednesday. Just three days after this incredible celebration of the power Jesus has over death was a day that nothing seemed to fall in to place. I had to take multiple tests for my college courses, run to the grocery store, set up, prepare games, worship, and a message for our FCC Kids Ministry that night, meet with a few other staff members about an upcoming special event, continue working on some projects for our Forefront Youth, and get in contact with what seemed like an endless list of people about what seemed like an endless list of things I was responsible for completing.
As hour after hour passed I realized how little I seemed to be accomplishing. Every time I would begin a task, something more urgent would come up and my attention would divert to that. By noon, my list of things to accomplish had gotten longer rather than shorter because of how many things kept coming up. It was discouraging enough that multiple times throughout the day I stopped to take a deep breath and remind myself to pray and let God help me. Things would calm down for around five minutes before a new thing would come up. By the end of the day I was not even close to done with the things I knew I needed to accomplish.
As day turned into evening and people started arriving for our midweek service, I forced myself to step out of my office and prepare my heart to lead our FCC Kids with the same passion and excitement that God calls my wife, Carrie, and I to lead with week in and week out. I felt as though I had corrected my heart and mindset, and Carrie came in with a great attitude!
“Finally”, I thought to myself. My day was turned around, or so it seemed anyways. As the start of the service approached we were at about one third of our normal weekly attendance. I could not believe it. I had spent hours preparing for an exciting night, and two thirds of our kids did not show up? Back came the frustration and the sour attitude that I had carried with me all day. One of those days had become one of those nights.
We started off like we always do, with a group prayer and some energetic games. Looking back, the kids had a blast but I was blinded to that by my discontentment. I put on a smile and acted passionate, but I knew it was not real.
After games, my wife was prepared to lead worship along with the Bethel Kids album and I planned on running the sound board and putting words on the screen for the kids to follow along with. As I tried to play the first worship song, the computer gave me a software error that I had never seen before. I thought to myself, screaming in my own head, “Are you kidding me?!” One of those nights. Nothing worked! After five or ten minutes of troubleshooting I finally got the song to play, but even when it did play I was completely unsatisfied. I was flustered and began recollecting every negative event of the previous twelve hours. Little did I know that the whole time I was struggling and getting upset, the kids were telling stories and laughing and bonding as a group! They were completely unaffected by the production error. Later on that night, my wife shared with me that when the song did come on, the kids worshipped their hearts out. For some foolish reason I assumed that everyone was probably sharing in my misery. I figured a night seemingly this bad had to be one of those nights for everyone involved.
We did a few songs before coming to the last one. For the last song every week, we ask each kid to sit down in their own space and close their eyes. We do this to help them focus on only God and nothing else. It is a song we often sing in church and in our Children’s Ministry. The song we sang is called “Ever Be”. The lyrics talk about how much love God has for us, how worthy He is of our praise, and because of that how we will praise Him forever. Before we got to the final song, our Associate Pastor, Aaron, came back and offered to do sound and words so that I could be in worship with the kids. I was more than happy to relinquish control of what had become the object of my frustration built up over the last twelve hours. I scooted out of the booth and walked in towards the group.
Often times a successful worship set in children’s ministry is one that lacks extreme noise and distraction. If you have ever been involved in kid’s ministry in you know what I am talking about! When we do the last song of the night, we do not force them to sing or lift their hands. We do talk about worship and encourage it, but when the worship portion of the night approaches, we simply remind them that the next few moments are between them and God. Many of them do worship, others sit and stare, some make subtle noises and movements to see what they can get away with.
That night, I was blown away as I rounded the corner past the dividers we had set up. To my surprise, they were all singing, and although the number of them was fewer than normal, their song was louder than ever. The song continued, the music built up with everyone’s eyes closed and focused on God, except mine. As the chorus began for the final time in the track, I watched every single child and volunteer lift up their hands in worship.
I grew up in church and have been a part of hundreds, if not a thousand worship sets. Few, if any of them, had seemingly flopped as much as this one. The failing production of worship only added to the frustration I had experienced all day and all night. Yet, every person in the room, except me, was totally unaffected by the circumstances. I looked at the raised hands worshipping across the room that night and my bad attitude and mindset rushed out of me like a flood. I was immediately moved to tears and left speechless. As the song concluded, I motioned to my wife to pray. Usually I initiate the transition into the message, but I knew I needed a moment with God to get my heart and mindset right before continuing with the night.
In that moment with God, I was instantly reminded why I do what I do. No Elementary school student is going to show up on a Wednesday Night because of what I do to produce a “cool” environment. They show up because they want to learn more about Jesus. Sure, fun games and good messages help, and I will always be committed to putting forth my best effort. In the end though, nothing I do matters if God does not show up. He has been faithful to show up every time our FCC Kids meet, and he certainly was there that Wednesday Night.
Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV) says, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
That night, I saw a piece of Heaven. I have been around both kids and adults a fair amount in my life, and especially the past few years. In my opinion, kids understand the Kingdom of Heaven far better than adults do. We have a lot to learn from the way they approach things. Unknowingly, they showed me that God understands and maybe even appreciates production, but he values people.
Every once in a while, I have one of those days, or one of those nights where nothing seems to fall in to place or go my way. I am certain you do too. The fact is, no matter how much we think, expect, and prepare, we cannot change the fact that sometimes the things outside of our control will all go wrong. But we can change the way we handle them.
Wow, I am starting to sound like my Dad! Dad always told me that if you put forth your best effort, God always does his part. That statement of truth about God has yet to fail me, and I do not anticipate it starting to any time soon.
Next time a day like this comes my way I think I will be able to handle it with a better perspective. I will always owe that to the fact that one of those days that was forgettable became one of those nights that I will never forget.