“To do that we’re going to need to get rid of the kids.” This is my response whenever I hear someone pray to “remove our distractions” so that we can worship and pray to God. I’ve heard this said a number of times over the years, but it never bothered me until we had kids. Actually, I don’t remember it bothering me until we had two kids.
After you’ve wrestled your kids all morning in the seemingly never-ending quest to get them out of the door on time without having a meltdown of some sort the last thing you want to hear is “remove our distractions.” This is especially bad if your kids are actually in the service with you. How can you not be distracted? Kids are pretty much inherently distracting or require you to be distracted to make sure they aren’t throwing toys or bulletins or trying to rip the hymnal or pew Bible up.
Hearing such things certainly makes it seem like families aren’t really welcome in the worship service. Mom and Dad are, but those distracting kids aren’t. Now I’m coming from this from the position of a parent, but I wonder who else may be feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome through its use? Does the person who is distracted by the death of loved one feel like they’re welcome? Do the families dealing with chronic illness or economic hardship feel like they’re welcome? Or do they feel like the distractions of their lives hinder them in their worship?
I understand what the phrase is trying to accomplish. We want to come to God and not be worrying about what else is going on in life. We want to be fully present in the worship of our God. But is this really the way to be fully present? Do we have to remove part of our lives in order to come before God and be able to worship Him?
That is what gets me concerned about such a phrase. It appears to say that we can’t really worship God if we’re distracted by the events of our lives. I think this sets up a divide between church on Sunday mornings and all the rest of the time that we’re out in the “real world.” In the real world we have distractions and if we need to remove them to really worship God fully, then we’re in trouble. So how do I pray or praise God while I’m working, being a parent at home, or doing the errands and chores that are required through the week?
Not only that, but it subtly says that our real life isn’t really welcome on Sunday mornings. Our goal is to come to church without distraction so that we can worship God fully. So check the issues you’re dealing with in life at the door please. We’ll get to those another time.
Now it’s not that I think our real life should get in the way of our worship of God. Sometimes we do come with stress, worry, and perspectives that just aren’t healthy, but I also don’t think it is so easy for us to remove them as we come into God’s presence. I think we need a way of prayer and worship that is able to help us pray and live through the issues in our lives without missing God in the midst of it all.
That’s what I wind up taking from the Psalms. These songs and prayers didn’t try to create a sterile environment or blank slate that magically enables us to come into the presence of God. No, they came from very real situations and emotions. These situations and emotions were not the ending point, but rather the connecting point where they worshiped God.
If we are really wanting to be fully present (if that’s even possible in the first place) as we worship God, I don’t think that removing the distractions of life is the way to do it. It is coming to God where we are. We may be broken and battered, but we look to God who can heal and give hope. Life may be going our way and we give thanks and praise to God for those blessings. We may even have kids and pray to God with half-closed eyes and arms full of wiggles.
We don’t need the removal of all distractions to worship our God. Worship can take place even amid the distractions and details of every day life. I would even say that our worship of our God is stronger when it is connected to our lives as they are rather than connected to a worship service sterilized of all the distractions in our lives.