It’s Primary Program season. It is a time where many spouses who would not otherwise come to church show up to see and support their children.
On the surface, having your husband come to church seems like a nice gesture, but as those of us who have had a spouse leave the church know, “it’s complicated.”
You want to be happy that DH is coming to church, but you worry that it will be awkward, or he will be annoyed, or criticize something about the church. Then you get those ward members who say, “It was so nice to see your husband at church today. Do you think he’ll start coming again?” Those words produce anything but the feelings of kindness and compassion with which they were most likely meant.
Why is that? Why do those simple gestures of reaching out grate you the wrong way – like fingernails on a chalkboard?
Your situation is already emotionally charged, and those simple words bring many thoughts to the surface. You may think:
They aren’t sincere.
If they were, they would have shown up a long time ago to help him.
They don’t understand my situation.
They don’t respect my spouse.
They treat him like a project.
They pity rather than love me.
Whoa! With thoughts like those, of course, you get upset when people comment.
You try to politely field the comments while coming from a place of annoyance. You leave church feeling worse. That which you wished would fill your cup drained it.
You may want to blame the well-intentioned (or not so well-intentioned) commenters, but it doesn’t help to do so. They aren’t responsible for your thoughts and feelings about a church meeting.
So how can you get through the Primary Program season without the angst?
Here’s a thought that I had. If Jesus Christ was in your congregation and said, “It’s so good to see your husband here. Do you think he’ll start coming back?” How would you react?
That question shifted my feeling inside. If it were Jesus Christ, I would believe that He was sincere. I would believe that he loved both my spouse and me and that he had our best interests at heart. I would react with sincerity and love.
I might say something like, “Yes, it is great to see him here. He probably won’t keep coming, but I’m grateful he loves his children enough to support them even when he disagrees.”
Fascinating. It was totally my beliefs about where the other people were coming from that made me so annoyed at them.
I believed they were insincere. I believed that didn’t understand my issues. I believed they didn’t respect my spouse. I believed they pitied me instead of loved me. When I changed my belief to what I would believe about Jesus Christ, my whole feeling changed to one of love.
When my feeling changed to love, I was able to respond from love. The words might even have been the same in either situation, but they felt physically different in my chest when coming from love. Such a massive shift from a small change in perspective.
There’s my church hack for you this week. Pretend that each person who comments – no matter what the comment, how it makes you feel, or how insincere you think they are – is Jesus Christ. As you respond to each as if they were Christ, you will leave feeling loved and edified.
No matter what others do, you’ll get to leave the primary program and church that day feeling the love of Christ in your heart.