Once, I won a contest that sent our family to a Pittsburgh Pirates game in seats smack-dab behind the dugout. PNC Park is lauded as one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums in MLB, so there aren’t any bad seats, as the stunning Pittsburgh skyline envelops fans watching a favorite summer pastime. However, as the usher escorted us to our prize seats that night, we were all in stunned disbelief at our fortune to be so close to all the action. No camera zoom lens was needed. Each crack of the bat was sweeter. We could see and hear the coaches and players interact, and one player gently tossed our son a ball. The fireworks show was magnificent. It was truly a special night.
Those are the kind of seats we all dream about for big events featuring our favorite sports team or at a concert headlined by a musician we love. People are known to wait for hours for prime tickets to mega-popular events. And how about Black Friday shopping and what some people do to be first in line for a good deal?
It made me think. What about the greatest event in the history of the world — the sale of all sales? My soul’s salvation paid for by Christ in exchange for my filthy rags. What about church where we gather to hear, share, and remember this message? Is there front-row enthusiasm there?
I’ve observed that the front seats in church are often the last to be filled, much like I see at work when the human resources department calls a mandatory workplace educational session. I admit, I love going to church infinitely more than HR sessions at work, but I still tend to avoid the front row. When I was younger, it was because I wanted to sit with friends and whisper during the service. As a mom, it was better for me — and everyone else — to lessen the chances of a toddler “pew escapee” by sitting in the back, where a quick exit from the service with an unhappy child happened a lot.
What about now? Am I guilty of trying to get to church early to “secure” my seat in the back?
Recently, my view from the back of the church building has afforded me a new perspective. I attend a location of The Church of Jesus Christ where, during Sunday school, some of our ministers are “out in the field” so to speak, at an addiction recovery center, holding a short service with people there. Afterward, the ministers join us for our morning service, and some of the people in recovery attend this service as well. Some of these visitors are now my brothers and sisters in Christ. Without fail, these are the people who choose to sit in the front seats of the sanctuary.
And from where I sit, it is a beautiful sight. They seem to be perched on the edge of their seats. They listen intently to the message of a forgiving and loving God and nod in agreement. They read the words and sing the hymns enthusiastically with unwavering focus.
And I, who have heard the gospel’s message all my life and rarely open the hymnal because I know all the words by heart, suddenly am overwhelmed with a desire to renew my focus and let the message wash over my soul as if I am hearing it for the first time. And in keeping that mindset, I am a little envious of those front-row seats.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me…Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” (Psalm 51:10,12)
“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have you received his image in your countenances? Have you experienced this mighty change in your hearts?…And now behold I say unto you, my brethren, if you have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask can you feel so now?” (Alma 5:14, 26)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.