Fridays with Susan
I saw a cartoon the other day. I wish I could copy it here, but unfortunately there are copyright laws of which I am not sure enough to ensure I stay within the necessary bounds to avoid litigation. So I will kind of describe it to you. It's a man looking quizzically at an office door upon which is written the name of the occupant. Under the main title, “Pastor”, was written “The Right Rev. Dr. John G. Doe, B.A., Th.D., M.div., Ph.D. Your humble servant."
I chuckled, remembering the leadership conference of a denomination in New York state, which years ago Ron and I had been invited to attend. Fully one third of the 400 or so attendees were leaders in the organization - "upper management" I guess you could call them. They sat on the stage in chairs that were arranged like choir risers behind the speaker, facing out toward the rest of us. On the second evening of the conference, there was a special worship service which was led by the music ministry of a large church in a city nearby. With all those dignitaries on stage, there wasn't enough room for the worship team, so, while we were at dinner, their chairs were temporarily moved down to the floor with the rest of us. During that worship time, we were all on level ground. But as soon as the singing was over, and someone approached the podium to introduce the main speaker, a goodly number of the leaders sitting at the floor level, began to pick up their chairs and rather unceremoniously move them back up on the stage. It would have made so much more sense for them to stay put and enjoy the speaker, looking at the man's face, for a change instead of his back. The picking up and moving of these chairs and bodies while the moderator attempted to introduce the next speaker was quite disruptive. And humorous! In their efforts to get it done quickly, the chairs which had been so perfectly aligned like choir risers before, were being placed willy-nilly all over the stage.
Ron and I began to giggle. It felt like we were the only people in the entire place to do so, but it just looked so funny! Another couple, just in front of us, must have heard our titters, because they turned around to give us an understanding look, with their eyes just a-twinkling. It was a pastor and his wife from Red Wing, Minnesota, a couple who were soon to become our friends. Their shoulders began to shake a little too and as they turned back to face the front, we could tell they were trying just as hard as we were to suppress their giggles and to maintain the proper decorum.
I had my own opportunity to look a little silly just yesterday when I couldn’t remember the combination of my locker at the gym I joined a few weeks ago. Dripping in sweat, desperate to get into the shower, and already late for work, I stood hopeless and helpless in front of my locker, unable to calm my panic stricken state long enough to allow myself to remember the right combination of numbers that would give me access to everything I needed to get on with my day. It wasn’t easy to reconcile myself to the fact that I needed to ask for help. It wasn’t easy at all. I would have done just about anything to avoid looking silly to anyone else. But I ended up having to go out to the front desk to do just that. I had to ask for pencil and paper so I could write down the numbers in all the possible combinations, so I could try them one-by-one, ensuring that I wasn’t missing any – and inadvertently skipping over the right one in my panicked state. In doing so I had to admit to the pretty young thing behind the counter, and the maintenance staff who also happened to be there, that I couldn’t remember the stupid combination on my locker. Fortunately they had more grace than I did at that leadership conference years ago and they didn’t laugh – though they had every reason to. Instead they were understanding and supportive and helpful in every way, even offering to quickly and easily cut off the lock with their handy-dandy bolt cutters should my own plan fail. Now they may have laughed as I went back into the change room, but not to my face, and for that I am grateful.
I smile as I think of how easy it is for me to identify pride in others and yet at the same time how hard it is for me to admit that I am just the same. I guess that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said we needed to get the log out of our own eyes, before we could start looking at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s.
While I was on the treadmill that morning, I had been reading a book on servant leadership, and praying that God would give me more influence in some specific areas. I was thinking of several large and concerning gaps between what is and what should be. I also know how in need of God’s help I am to see the needed changes effected. It was such a good thing to be able to walk away from that gym yesterday softened and humbled by my experience with that lock. It was such a good day yesterday, living on that level ground that is at the foot of the cross.