At first it sounded like someone was about to be really, really sick. Then I heard what sounded like violent hiccups. Then the moaning began. Then more hiccups. And on it went. “Oh no,” I thought to myself. “Is this going to continue all evening?”
It was just before the start of our 5:30 p.m. worship service. I wondered why whoever-it-was didn’t go out into the church lobby. I wondered what the rest of the people in church were thinking. I wondered if I would be able to concentrate on leading worship.
Then my faith kicked in. I remembered: This is about God. It’s not about whether my fellow worshipers and I feel comfortable with some strange noises. Let’s worship God in whatever way God calls us to.
Then my memory kicked in too. I realized that the noises might well be from one of our next-door neighbors from Harbor House Ministries, a Christian adult care home for people who have severe multiple impairments. I remembered that a Harbor House resident had joined us in worship a few months ago—a young man who had been brought by his mother. Perhaps I was hearing another resident.
I found out later my guess was exactly right. Nicole had come from Harbor House, brought by her father and three younger siblings. For one reason or another, they’d found their way to the church next door. Nicole’s father said she was overjoyed to attend a worship service after not having had the chance to do so for a few weeks.
Nicole herself was unable to verbalize that, so how could he tell? Because Nicole was much louder than she normally was! The noises I’d first found distracting were her expressions of deep delight at finally being in the company of God and his people again.
Long ago Jesus’ disciples noticed some mothers bringing their children to Jesus for blessing. In a holy huff they tried to shoo them away, thinking that Jesus had much more important things to do than bounce toddlers on his knees. Jesus, probably as disgusted at being deprived of the company of those little ones as he was dismayed by the disciples’ rudeness, said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14).
On a Sunday evening another one of God’s children came to spend time with Jesus. I’m glad that none of us shooed her away. I’m glad that she felt at home enough to make some joyful noise!