“Joshua, you’re going,” his dad says.
“No, I’m not coming.”
Another classic Sunday morning battle ensues. Joshua doesn’t want to get on the bus to go to church. Well, he doesn’t, then he does, then he doesn’t, then he’s told he has to, and then he crosses his arms against his chest, stubbornly scuffs the ground with his foot, and sticks out his lower lip.
“No, I’m not coming.” His curly hair flops against his head with resolve even most defiant adolescents can’t muster.
“Get your shoes,” his dad says with a poker face that trumps Joshua’s. The seven-year old is set into motion but not without lack of heavy steps and dramatic rants on the tortures of kids church.
Ten minutes later, I’ve picked up all the other kids from the neighborhood; Joshua finally trudges after me, urged on by the watchful eye of his father from his front door. “Church is boring. I hate church,” he yells.
The angry child climbs aboard the yellow school bus and sits down next to his little brother. Turning to me he asks, “When do we get snack?”
“After church,” I inform him just as I do every week.
We pull up to the church, and he races off the bus into the gymnasium eyes watchful for the nearest basketball. Joshua laps around the court putting up shot after shot until the announcement to sit down comes over the microphone. He begrudgingly hands his basketball over to a leader and sits sulking in the back row far away from all the other kids except his little brother. Try as I might, he no longer falls for my VIP seating tactic and refuses to be escorted to his “specially reserved, important seat in the front row.”
During worship, he sits motionless, blank stare on his face. “Joshua, help me do the motions. They’re so fun.”
He shakes his head, “I don’t want to.”
The video lesson flashes across the screen, and behind his glazed eyes, I can’t tell if he’s listening to the characters or daydreaming once again about snack. He stays in his seat as all the children line up for small group until I escort him to his proper class.
“God, does he hear anything we say?” I wonder.
We board the bus, and he once again sits by his little brother, joking and laughing the whole way home. His sister passes out snack to all the kids as they exit the bus. Joshua is first in line.
As I walk him and his siblings to their front door, Joshua asks me a question. “Do you know what I love more than anything else in the whole world?”
“What do you love more than anything else in the whole world, Joshua?”
“Do you know what I hate more than anything else in the whole world?”
“What do you hate?”
Today, I knock on Joshua’s door to find him fully dressed, ready to go, with his Bible in hand. “Daniel, get your Bible,” he says to his younger brother. “You need it for church.”
He runs to the bus with no question about snack, sits in the second row with his sister during worship, sings and does all the hand motions with great gusto, and tells me on the bus, “if Jesus is sick in Heaven and I am in Heaven, I will serve Jesus.”
As I walk Joshua to his door, his friend from a few doors down comes running up to him. “Sorry for calling you a booger face yesterday,” Joshua says.
I turn to leave, and he calls after me, “Dot, I’m gonna miss you between now and next week.” And he skips toward his front door.