Sometimes in church, I feel like I’m calling a square dance. “Sit down. Stand up. Turn around. Don’t touch your sister. Put that down. Pick it up. Kneel down. Get off the floor. Pay attention. Grab your partner, do-si-do.” ARGGG. Other people have told me that they think it’s cute, but it drives me crazy! Why won’t my children stop misbehaving in church?
What’s in a dream?
A couple of months back, I had a dream about it. Now, I don’t put much stock in dreams as a general rule. Most of my dreams are immediately forgotten the moment I wake up. But God did promise that when He poured out His Spirit, young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams. You see which category I fit in.
In the dream, my second son was climbing around some sort of contraption and fell into a basket. Suddenly, arcs of electricity started shooting through him, causing him to jerk and twist horribly. I raced forward and knocked him out of the basket, and he quickly recovered. Then I jerked awake.
My first thought as I awoke was that my son’s motions in church were similar to the motions that I saw him making in the dream while being electrocuted. My next thought was that maybe my son’s behavior was being affected by some outside force. I had the realization that misbehaving in church is a sin against the first commandment. Failing to show God proper respect is a sin, even for a child.
Looking for the devil’s footprints.
Where there’s sin, there’s demons. I know from past experience that demons don’t have any qualms attacking the smallest children. It dawned on me that perhaps part of the chaos that I was experiencing was due to the fact that my children were being severely tempted to act up in Mass.
In my spiritual life, I’ve come up against temptations that were incredibly intense. They took all the powers of my will and intellect, strengthened by God’s grace, to resist them. After a temptation like that passed, I was exhausted and spiritually depleted.
My poor children might be facing this same kind of dramatically intensified temptation at Mass, but without the benefit of my understanding of spiritual warfare or my years of practice fighting the devil. In a way, the devil might be “electrocuting” them with severe temptation and sitting back and laughing at my frustration ho down.
The proof is in the pudding.
I decided to test this theory the following Sunday. God does occasionally wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me something, but I needed to test the truth of this ‘revelation’ by acting on it. Before Mass, I stopped my kids and had them say a simple prayer with me. “Jesus, please help me to behave at Mass.” Nothing more than that. No lectures or threats (which I’ve tried before with zero effect).
The results were amazing. I think it was the first time that I was able to pray quietly after communion in months. The kids weren’t perfect. They are still 7, 5, and 3. But now I was working with God’s grace rather than on my own strength.
After Mass, I praised the children for their behavior and pointed out that God answered their prayer for help. I told them that the devil tempts them to misbehave, but God gives them grace to be reverent. In the following weeks, we have continued this practice of asking Jesus for help before Mass, and the fruit has been overwhelmingly positive. Not perfection, mind you, but dramatic improvement. I still have to fight with distraction during Mass myself, so I know that this will be a lifelong battle for them.
A long term project.
I have continued to talk to my children about the temptation to misbehave in mass, and I’m much more likely to tell them that I think they’re being tempted during Mass than to threaten them with a spanking. I find it works better, because they really don’t want to do what the devil wants them to do. It helps them to engage their minds and wills to fight back against the temptation, which is a skill they’re going to need for the rest of their lives.
To read my story of how Jesus Christ snatched me from the snares of the devil, get my new book Demoniac on Amazon.com.