When the Pew is Just Too Hard


At the Call to Worship, I stood and sighed.

The calendar was on its last page and I was on my last leg, tired from holiday prep, tired from my work, and honestly, too tired for church.

Don’t get me wrong… I love my job. I love ministry. I love my church. But there are times when the pew is just too hard.

On that morning, folks around me belted another verse of Joy to the World, while I kept my worship folder and my heart closed.

I let my gaze and my mind wander.

Does she have a new hair color? Didn’t she have that baby yet? Is that their son home from college? 

What’s that noise? I turned my head to find the source of the mechanical, whirring sound. Just ahead and to my right I found it; a girl in a wheelchair was parked in the aisle. Her mother was pushing a small button at the back, causing the whole machine to unfold and lift, placing the girl’s legs and feet beneath her so she could “stand” and sing.

I know this girl enough to know the chair is fairly new. I know her family. Also from a distance, I’ve watched them work, play, and worship. But until then, I’ve never seen them stand together. It moved me.

Severe cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities keep the girl from reading and understanding the words in the bulletin. She can’t recite the responses or hold a tune.

But her worship was true and beautiful. She smiled wildly to greet the folks around her. She tapped her bulletin when she sensed a transition in the liturgy and shook soft bell bracelets during a familiar hymn. During prayer, she quieted her body in reverence.

I noticed the arms, handles, and wheels of her chair were still wet. Oh, right, the weather.

She had to be lifted out of her car seat and strapped into her chair. And today, all that in the snow. After finding the ramp, the handicapped entrance, and special seating, Someone had to take off her coat, position her feet, and wipe her mouth before she was ready for church.

I dressed, drove and dragged myself there, and I couldn’t hold a candle to her joy.

And it occurred to me… the beauty is that the girl in the chair worships exactly the way she lives. 

The problem is I do, too. 


Of course the girl in the chair struggles with her own sin. I’m sure she gets impatient, frustrated, and angry like the rest of us. No one’s deaf to the enemy’s lies.

But in God’s Kingdom, I can’t help but think she has a spiritual advantage over folks like me who can skip into church and pretend we’re just fine on our own.

She gets to church the same way she gets anywhere: dependent and trusting. She knows no other way to enter each day or the sanctuary.

Please, Lord, help me unlearn all other ways. 

I shifted in my pew. Maybe because I was resting on my own strength and work. The girl in the chair made worship look easy. Maybe because of the rest she practices during the week.


How are you entering the new year? Are you weary of getting yourself ready for church? Me too. 

Or perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve sat in a pew. Friend, you might be closer than many of us. At least you’ve stopped pretending…

Worship is nearer to those who understand they don’t have what it takes. It comes pure and true to those who know – from birth or from experience – that none of us can stand or bend our knees alone. 

Wherever you sit or whatever the day of the week, listen for God’s Call to Worship. Watch for His provision, and rest in His grace.

Listen, watch, and rest. He’ll give you reason to sing.


You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Church Photo by Jeff Brown

Stained Glass Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Pew Photo by Kathy Hillacre on Unsplash

8 thoughts on “When the Pew is Just Too Hard

  1. Christan Perona January 1, 2018 / 8:51 am

    “Or perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve sat in a pew. Friend, you might be closer than many of us. At least you’ve stopped pretending…” Thank you for just the right balance of challenge and grace, Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown January 1, 2018 / 8:55 am

      Thanks, Christan ! And Happy New Year! I look forward to reading many of your words in 2018! xoxo


  2. Jan January 1, 2018 / 11:19 am

    Seems like your words always strike where I did not know there was a target. Thanks for the reminder of seeing grace when we were not looking.
    Happy New Year – keep writing – this one of your gifts benefits us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown January 1, 2018 / 3:37 pm

      Jan, thanks so much for reading and for the encouragement. Happy New Year!


  3. Rosemary Oliver January 1, 2018 / 7:12 pm

    Karen, You are a fabulous writer. Thank you for your beautiful art of words. I’m so very blessed to read them. God bless you and Happy New Year from Rosemary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown January 2, 2018 / 7:45 am

      Rosemary, Thank you. I’m so very blessed by your friendship. Happy New Year!


  4. lindafarley3 January 2, 2018 / 12:24 am

    Karen, I am so thankful that you are writing again! I have missed your always poignant and honest words! This is a gift that God has given you and I hope He gives you the space to use it much in the coming year. Love you, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown January 2, 2018 / 7:46 am

      Love you, Linda! I’m always so grateful for your encouragement and friendship.


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