I’ve spent a lot of time in the foyer.
As a new mom, I had a baby who never wanted to stop crying. And something about church triggered his worst behavior, making it rather miserable for all of us. I often wondered why I even tried to be there when all my time was spent pacing the halls. With added kids came added foyer time, for me and my husband. It seemed that if one wasn’t crying, the other was. Sometimes they would mix it up by hitting, screaming, or just being exceptionally defiant. There were many Sundays our entire family was in the foyer.
I remember envying the parents with kids who liked to color and look at books. I fantasized about being an empty nester, wondering what it might be like to just sit and listen on Sunday, bathed in a spiritual halo of inspiration. But, instead, I had reality: One more Sunday without respite, rejuvenation, or spiritual renewal. Just another week in the foyer.
One Sunday, while holding an unruly toddler who wanted to get down and run, I tried pointing out Jesus in each painting on the wall in an effort to get him to calm down. One painting stopped me from moving on. It was Christ with the lost sheep draped over His shoulders. He had left his 99 to go search for that one who had strayed. It got me thinking that of all the places we might find Jesus in the church, there is a good chance he would be with me, right here in the foyer, looking for the one who needed Him most.
He would be in the foyer welcoming the worn out single mother and her children who never make it to church on time. He would sit on that stiff, floral sofa next to the woman who is weeping alone because of heartache. He would shake the hand of the man who decided to walk through the glass doors for the first time in too long wearing jeans, sneakers, and a wrinkled polo. He would embrace the couple who is too offended by someone in the ward to come all the way in but miss church desperately. He would join the teenager who is strategically avoiding the sacrament, not sure how to take care of the sins that make church so difficult, and He would talk with the woman who has too many doubts to feel like she fits in until she realizes that there is room for her too.
Then, He walked with me. In a way, He took my baby from my tired arms and gave me the moment of rest I so desperately needed but couldn’t find. He showed me a glimpse of what my showing up, even when it was hard, meant to my future family. Standing in front of that picture, He let me peek into a time when I would miss the Cheerios and crayons strewn all over the bench and wish for more one-on-one moments in the church hallway talking about Jesus. He made me aware of the spiritual help and perspective I gained from even a couple of minutes in His house and my small sacrifice of ease and time. He showed me my unruly boys who could never sit still, blessing and passing the sacrament in white shirts and ties, bringing comfort, hope and a small piece of heaven to so many in the congregation who desperately need Him.
He taught me to forget about myself for a minute and really see the people in the foyer—those He has been waiting for or worrying about for so long. He asks me to welcome them, to love them, to remind them that He is glad they are here, sins, jeans, questions, tears and all.
So if you find yourself mostly in the foyer, it might not be such a bad place to be, surrounded by others who are gifting their meager offering, just like you are, and hoping for an abundant return that will surely one day come. Everything changed for me the day I realized that Jesus is in the foyer.