Bats in the Attic

There’s a curious hazard about centering your life around the church and the church year. Sunday is the pinnacle, the height to which you ascend every week, crashing down on Monday only to begin again. And that being so, Saturday nights are usually always the dark night of the soul, the valley of the shadow of death, the night when everyone will have a terrible dream, and the moment when there will be a bat in the attic.

I say this after much considered study. When we first blundered into Good Shepherd, and I was delivered of what I thought was going to be an enormous mewling infant, but what turned out to be a tiny, dainty baby girl with a sort of easy going personality, we didn’t have time to notice anything. We would arrive on Sunday morning as we did every morning–frantic, sleep deprived, just trying to figure everything out all at once. It wasn’t until the second or third baby that we began to notice the pattern.

A whole week could go by in perfect peace, with everybody sleeping calmly and reasonably through the night, and no crises of any kind to cope with, and then Saturday night the whole world–it seemed at least, from the depths of the comforter–would begin that minute to cut teeth, dream a terrifying dream, get a tummy ache, or just decide to cry forever. We would arrive in church, sputtering along by the sheer force of the will, so tired and ticked off that Nobody Had Slept. And always on Saturday Night. Whatever went wrong in our lives, it waited until that magical moment, the moment we really wanted and needed to sleep and have ourselves pulled together. I would arrive on Sunday morning, nearly always muttering bitterly about the Devil and all his works.

Now, for the most part, the children all sleep. Indeed, I sometimes have to wake them up to go to church. There isn’t the old mad scramble…well…there probably is, it’s just entirely different. No, the children all sleep, so I’m the one that lies awake, overtaken by sleeplessness, trying to trick my mind into letting go of everything and Just Sleep Already. But only on Saturday Night. The rest of the week I slumber like my grown up babies.

And, of course, Saturday night, in the mad dash to get everyone through the bath, get the dogs walked, the house picked up, and the big pile of stuff assembled for children’s chapel, that’s the moment the bat in the attic decides to come down and fly up and down the hallway. So instead of everyone going reasonably and calmly to bed, Matt and all six children lock themselves in Elphine’s tiny room with a towel and a plastic bin, shouting and scaring the poor little bugger half to death. I take that back. Marigold wasn’t in the room. She was standing outside the door shrieking, “The bat has rabies! It really has rabies.”
“It does not have rabies,” I remonstrated.
“How do you know!” she shrieked, her voice high and squeaky, as if she were calling to the bat instead of me.
“I just know,” I said, “stop screaming.”
So they got him (surely it’s fine to imagine that all bats are of the masculine persuasion in a moment like this) and released him back to his wild life outside. And then I remembered, Of Course, it’s Saturday night. This kind of thing never happens any other night of the week. We collapsed into bed, shadows of our usual robust selves, the children twittering and calling to each other up and down the hallway.

The thing is, the Devil and all his evil cohorts really don’t want us, or anybody else, to go to church. If there is any reason at all, however small, to persuade you not to go, that reason will be gathered up and hurled at you, along with your own natural inclinations to take it easy and stay home. If you arrive on a Sunday morning, exhausted, totally unable to conceive of hauling yourself out of bed and going to sit in a hard pew with a lot of annoying people, well, you are not alone. The whole of creation is under the sway of the one who hates God the most–that would be Satan–and who doesn’t want you to go and be built up into Christ’s own body. So, if you go, however harried and tired you are when you get there, you have won. You have triumphed. You should reward yourself with chocolate, and maybe even a nap.

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