Yes, it’s a real sign in Alabama on private property. And we all pretty much have grown up seeing it every time we go to Grandma’s house or the beach.
Living in a state that literally has a sign on Interstate 65 that says, “Go to church or the devil will get you,” has often made me wonder exactly what my motives were for hauling my children to a place I knew was full of hypocritical, sinning yet loving, forgiven and hopeful people. Why have I knocked myself out all these years taking my children to church?
My husband and I always laughed at the song, “Easy Like Sunday Morning” because locating the missing shoe, slicking down cowlicks and checking pockets for small reptiles and/or fireworks was anything but easy when we were trying to make it to Sunday School by 9:45 with two little boys in tow. It wasn’t uncommon for us to arrive in the parking lot with someone in the car pouting, and a few others thinking purely evil thoughts about everyone else in the car, and by the time we took a deep breath, smoothed our clothes and walked through the door, we all needed Jesus to whop us up-side the head.
In all honesty, one early benefit of taking our boys to church was being able to hand them over to the sweet ladies in the nursery while we got to sit with other calm, non-food-throwing adults for an hour. Literal heavenly peace for young parents.
Sure, tradition also played a role in our commitment because although our ancestors represented many different denominations, they all passed down their strong faith. Without doubt, there were a few pirates, cattle rustlers and bootleggers amongst the bunch, but overall, their salvation was steadfast. My husband and I decided we weren’t going to be the weak link in the long, strong chain of faith. If our culture turns its back on God, we don’t want the blame. Knowing we did our part in continuing the legacy was crucial.
Being a typical modern family and geographically separated from real kinfolk, church members helped our children develop goodness, patience, peace and kindness. Genetics may not have connected us, but we’re family nonetheless. Words of wisdom often take root and grow stronger when delivered by someone other than the parents, so I was grateful when the children’s and youth leaders with far more experience than I, stepped in to guide my boys in positive ways when my own efforts flopped.
The activities of a church youth group put the command “feed my sheep” into action, which has been a joy to watch. My boys had the opportunity to participate in meaningful projects and learned firsthand what Jesus meant when he said to feed the hungry, care for the sick and visit those in prison.
They’ve also learned to tune out the rhetoric of hate and instead, offer love and kindness to those who are different, then further developed this compassion by lending a hand to those who live in poverty, when other teens only saw it on TV.
The feeling of being connected to something greater — not only to the local church, but to all believers, reinforces a child’s feeling of belonging and having a purpose. On Sunday mornings, it’s amazing to know there are others around the world in majestic cathedrals, dusty country chapels and forbidden home gatherings, saying and believing the exact same words we say. When the world is going crazy with wars and senseless violence, knowing something greater is in control, comforts and inspires us to be and do better.
But it’s more than social justice and earthly kindness. Taking my children to church has built their relationship with God and other believers who are part of the big fire that reignites our embers when we start to fade.
I’m just now beginning to see the first fruit from all the laborious years of hauling my sons to the church for one activity or the other. With a few bumps along the way, they’re on the right path to becoming awesome, Godly men — so I guess that’s why I took them to church all these years. That, and not wanting the devil to get them on Interstate 65.
This story first appeared HERE on al.com.