Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Call From God...

The plumber had just arrived to replace the hot water heater. That had started off the day… water all over the basement due to the bottom falling out of that household wonder that keeps our showers warm and our clothes clean. Not that we needed to spend the money for a plumber, and supposedly our homeowners warranty made this a cheaper repair. But as the plumber recited the code requirements and the add-ons these would require to the repair ticket… this inexpensive repair was becoming increasingly more expensive.

I’m a minister. Hot water heaters go bad for ministers just like they do for everyone else. And all the laying on of hands I might want to do will not repair one. So I’m calling the plumber.

As the plumber arrives the secretary is calling me from the church building. I’m off today… which is fortunate since the hot water heater failed. A minister is a lot like a doctor—you never feel like you’re completely off the job. But doctors get paid more, and have answering services that screen their calls.

I take the call from the office. The electrician I had called earlier in the week to repair the EXIT sign that was screeching (my guess is we’re looking at a bad battery) had shown up and couldn’t find the sign that needing replacing. I asked the secretary how he could miss the sign since it was making such an annoying racket… but she tells me the electrician left and will return tomorrow when I will be in and can show him the singing sign.

You may be thinking… "I didn’t know you minister-types worried about such things. In fact, I didn’t know ministers did much more than sit around their office, read the Bible, pray… and wait for some spiritual crisis to arise."

Okay, how’s this then: last night a couple approached me and asked to talk. I know their youngest son; in fact, I'd watched all three of their kids grow up. As we sat in the small cubical of an audio control room, they poured out their hearts… and their anguish. Their son’s fiancé was unwilling to accept their desire that liquor not be served at the rehearsal dinner. A series of acrimonious phone calls had been exchanged, and now this mother pulled a letter from her purse. A two-paged single spaced document from her future daughter-in-law scolded this couple for their bigotry and narrow-mindedness. The letter concluded with the barbed suggestion that if they couldn't accept who she was, this couple might want to skip their son's wedding.

This sweet woman’s hands shook as she struggled to contain her emotions while reading excerpts from the letter to me. She refolded the letter ,and returned it to her purse. She then asked me… no, she was pleading from that place only moms can touch: “I have to be a part of their wedding. I cannot not be there.”

And I agreed, and encouraged these good people that they should attend their son’s wedding and make every effort to be gracious and invite their son and his bride to visit their home.

They had prepared a letter… it had come to that, a letter writing campaign… in which they indicated that they agreed to honor the couple’s wishes and therefore would not host, nor would there even be, a rehearsal dinner.

As they rose to leave, they showed me pictures of their recent trip to the Grand Canyon. And then they left, he holding an umbrella, she holding her purse containing the letter.

My sweet daughters had been waiting patiently. They had learned that dad often ended up in these impromptu gatherings, and they had perfected the art of hanging out in the church building.

I kissed them both… thankful for the sweet blessing they brought to my life.

Why would anyone serve as church as a minister? I have often asked myself that question. Why would someone place themselves in a position that exposes them to so many human foibles and frailties… and so much pain.

It's got to be in response to a call from God. That answer may sound "churchy"... but it's all I've got.