I May Have To Find A New Church
This post is of a very personal nature. No lesson or thought today. I simply need to tell this story, because the events of yesterday will stay with me for the rest of my life. So although this is long, I hope you’ll stay with me. I have a feeling you’ll want to.
Sometimes something happens that burns in your mind in such a way that you know it will stick to you forever. It’s sears into the wall of your memory and affects you. When the experience is fresh–like it still is for me right now–you’re not really sure if it is good or bad. That’s what church was like for me yesterday.
On any given Sunday, you will see my wife and I walking into the 9 o’clock service at North Point Community Church with our four boys. Since this is a church of thousands we are very strategic about where we park, sit, and the routes we take to pick up our four kids afterwards in order to navigate the crowds. We split up. We each take two kids. This Sunday it was my turn to handle the two youngest: Carson who is 4 and Ethan who is 4 months.
After service I picked up Ethan and was annoyed right away. Sure, it was amazing as the nursery volunteer handed him to me and he smiled right away when he saw me. Unfortunately, the joy of that little moment was muted by the embarrassment of calling him the wrong name, especially considering I did the same thing signing him in before service. There’s nothing like feeling like a bad Dad.
She handed him to me, then his car seat, and then his diaper bag. I was fumbling and wondering why he wasn’t sleeping. He should have been in the carrier out cold, per our instructions. So I asked, “Did he take a nap?” “Oh yes, a whole 30 minutes. And he has a clean diaper too. We just woke him up to change it.”
I appreciate the policy. When I ran a children’s ministry it was my policy too. I wanted to make sure all visitors knew how much we cared about their children, so we didn’t want any parent to pick up a child from our nursery with a butt load of poopy diaper. Here’s the thing, I’m on number four, so a sleeping baby in a poopy diaper is way better than an awake baby who should be sleeping but is awake with a clean diaper. Why? Because the baby being awake now would change the rest of the day–and not for the better. I know I’m a jerk–and I know it was wrong–but I was getting more annoyed.
I mustered up a hollow “thank you”, since deep down I know these volunteers are wonderful and generous for watching children on Sunday morning when they could be sleeping in. With Ethan in one had, I clumsily put the carrier on the stroller and dropped his bag in it. I decided to try to defuse my annoyance by carrying my smiling baby and doing the “proud papa” walk.
About halfway out of church I realize I totally forgot the other one. Carson was still in his classroom. My heart sank. I felt terrible. How could I get forget my child? I’ve never done that. Proud father no more.
I quickly placed Ethan in his carrier, turned the stroller around in the crowd (no easy feat, mind you), and picked up Carson from his class. About halfway out again, Carson looked up at me and let me know, “We forgot the picture I colored!” I said we’ll have to leave it this time. He responded, “But we have to go get it, Dad!” Not this time. He was mad. And I was further annoyed. Not at him. Just at the small amount of chaos going on.
With relief we broke free of the crowded hallway and reached the light of day. While waiting for the other half of my family next to the main entrance, I decided to strap Ethan back in his carrier hoping he’d fall back asleep. So I turned around and proceeded to straighten the straps, click the chest piece, fasten the bottom harness, straighten his arms and head, and pull the shade down. He was content. I was starting to relax again and took a breath.
All the while, people were walking out of the church laughing. I barely noticed. What do I care? Except one lady peaked my attention. She was crazy with belly laughs walking all the way down the walkway to the parking lot. I looked to my right down the sidewalk wondering what everyone was laughing at. That’s when I turned to see what I was oblivious to a moment ago.
Carson had his pants and underwear down at his ankles and was in full peeing mode on the tree right in front of the church.
The horror. The embarrassment.
I was mortified. Hundreds of people were walking out seeing this, and many were likely first-timers. Plus, the church has visitors from around the world every Sunday–many who are leaders and pastors–trying to glean wisdom from how North Point does ministry. Perhaps this was not the best first impression for them to have.
I bolted to him with arms stretched out yelling, “What are you doing? You can’t pee there! Stop peeing! STOP PEEING!!!!” I pulled his pants up in midstream. I lectured him about “not peeing in front of church.” I saw my wife in the corner of my eye and abruptly blurted out, “He has to pee hurry up and take him to the bathroom!” She rushed inside with him.
While in the bathroom he let her know, “I don’t have to go, Mommy.” “What? Daddy said you need to go so keep trying.” He let her know, “I already went pee.” “What?” “I peed on the tree outside.” That’s when she become mortified with me.
In shock, we get it together and get in the car. Leaving the scene of the crime, I told everyone the story. As we all laughed hysterically, my 7-year-old let’s us all know, “Peeing is not the Big Idea!” You’d have to go to North Point to get how funny that was. You see, the team at North Point teaches the kids a main point every Sunday they call “The Big Idea.” And peeing is not the Big Idea, for sure.
So I got home and decided to put a blurb about it on my Facebook and Twitter status, of course. I shared: Caught my son PEEING on the tree right in front of CHURCH as everyone was coming out. Slightly embarrassing.
I got the cursory “likes” and such. And then I get the kicker toward the end of the day from an old friend down in Florida:
You’re not going to believe this, but my boss (our senior pastor) was visiting NP today from down here in West Palm and texted me a picture of a kid peeing on a tree after service. The text said, “Only in Atlanta”. How crazy is that!? Now to read that was your son is hilarious!
Funny? Yes. Embarrassing? You bet. Ironic? Unbelievably. This puts the whole ‘6 Degrees of Separation’ to shame–literally.
Believe it or not, I managed to get the picture forwarded to me. Here it is. It looks like I am helping him pee on the tree. Not so much. That’s me trying to stop the stream.
Lastly, in the evening Lisa asked Carson, “Why did you pee on the tree?” What did he say? “Because I had to go and I can’t go to the bathroom by myself.” In a strange way, it was so sweet. He had to go, so he looked around to see who could take him. He didn’t see his Mom or brothers, saw that I was busy with the baby, and decided to take matters into his own hands–literally.
Looking back I have to wonder why no one said anything to me for the minute or so Carson spent emptying his tank? Were they enjoying my shame? I suppose I am very glad no one from the church walked up and said, “Excuse me ‘sir’, but these trees are purely decorative and not meant to be used as proxy toilets for little boys,” or, “Sir, would you mind having your son use the restroom and not the tree in front of our church.” And I agree. Will I need to change the service we go to or look for another church? We won’t. But the thought did cross my mind since we’re in front of the church every Sunday at the same time and everyone will think I meant for it all to happen. Ugh.
The real irony in all this is that I just submitted a resume for a job at the church hoping to put my writing to work.
What are the chances?