'WHY do I have to go to Sunday school, Daddy?" my five-year-old daughter asked one Sunday morning as we drove to church. "To learn about God," I said with a knowing smile. Knowing, because I probably asked the same question when I was her age.
She had procrastinated when told to get ready for Sunday school, wanting instead to remain in her pajamas and watch cartoons.
It's not that I didn't understand where my daughter was coming from. It seems like only yesterday that my brothers and I plotted early one morning to avoid attending church.
It wasn't as if I really disliked going to Sunday school. Sometimes I actually had a good time, especially if we sang my favorite hymns. But for the most part, the ideas and concepts being taught to us at that early age were hard to grasp.
Besides, the weekend was time for playing with your friends, building forts, watching your favorite cartoons, racing around on your bike, and having adventures. Sunday school was too much like regular school. And after going to school all week we were ready for a break.
At that age I hadn't yet discovered the tangible assets of Sunday school. Oh, there was definitely a warm, friendly feeling that washed over me after attending, but still, it wasn't as exciting as playing with my friends.
So come Sunday morning, my brothers and I would do our best to avoid church.
Our method was to make use of the fact that on weekends we usually woke up before our parents.
Rather than playing for a while and then waking them up for our weekly order of french toast, pancakes, or waffles, we decided to keep a low profile until 9 o'clock, after which we knew it would be too late to make it to the church on time. We knew Mom did not like walking into church late.
Being quiet for an hour or so meant no cartoons, no teasing or wrestling, no going to the bathroom, and no playing with our toys. It meant staying in our bedrooms until the big hand was passed the 12 (in order to be safe).
This was hardest on my younger brother, who shared a bedroom with our youngest brother, who was 3, innocent, and unaware of our scheme. He had the unenviable task of keeping him quiet, amused, and away from our parents.
If you've ever spent any time around young boys, you know stillness and quietness are not their normal attributes. Nevertheless, come Sunday morning, we were the models of silence and stealth.
But one Sunday morning our scheme was discovered. We let our parents sleep till around 9:45 (evidently, a late bridge night), and when our mother awoke she hustled out of bed and down the hall, calling our names as if we were in danger.
We had intended to wake them up at around 10 after 9, but things were going so well we decided to see how long we could keep it up - which proved our undoing.
Times did change, though. As a teenager I can remember driving myself to Sunday school without any parental prodding. What happened during those intervening years to change my attitude?
What happened first was that our parents started relying on their alarm clock.
But more important, I had finally begun to learn something that was tangible, something that made attending Sunday school and later church entirely worthwhile.
It was more than feeling good after the service. It was spiritual knowledge: an understanding that permeates one's life and governs the way we think about things and how we act or react to our surroundings.
The knowledge gained from Sunday school and church touches our lives and the lives of everyone we come in contact with.
Of course I told all this to my daughter, and her reply was, "I know that Daddy, but can you get up earlier next Sunday so you can make waffles?"