When I visit pastorless churches, I have a fear that my PowerPoint will malfunction. That did happen in August. Fortunately, I always have handouts as a backup. Last Sunday, however, I developed a new fear. What if I don’t have any clothes! I’m not talking about the “giving a speech in the nude” nightmare. Well, let me explain.
I drove five hours to meet with a congregation that had just lost their pastor. For long drives, like that, I’ll wear t-shirts, shorts, and sandals (in the Summer) while I drive, and I’ll change into my presentation clothes just before I get to the church.
I stopped a few times on my way. I got a coke at a highway rest stop from a vending machine. Later, I stopped and got a late lunch. And then, 20 miles from my destination, I stopped at a Buc-ee’s to change clothes. Boy, was I surprised when I opened the back door and found ALL my clothes were GONE! My shirt, pants, and belt were not hanging from the clothes hook. My shoes and socks were not on the floorboard. The satchel, with CDs and a flash drive, had disappeared.
I was in a rental car, and it had an unfamiliar button on the door handle that needed to be pushed to lock and unlock the door. I guessed I had failed to lock it properly at one of my stops and failed to notice when a thief stole my possessions while the car was unoccupied.
Could I have gotten away with doing the presentation in my current state of dress? Maybe. The fact that I was wearing a t-shirt that said, “I’m sorry about our president,” in twenty different languages, gave me great pause, however. I had one hour before I was supposed to be at the church and 90 minutes until the meeting time.
As best as I could, I turned on the “non-anxious presence.” I found a Beall’s department store. I bought a square-tailed shirt, some decent Levi’s, a pair of Sketchers, and some socks. I knew that casual clothes would fit the church’s culture.
As we started a pre-meeting, I pulled off some tape from one pant leg, with the pant size displayed, (but I didn’t notice, until the next day, that one shoe still had a tag in the laces over the tongue). Everyone enjoyed my story of trial and tribulation.
The only problem was I didn’t buy a belt. The jeans fit perfect when I put them on, but they stretched out more and more as the main meeting went on. I think I had to hike them up five times during my presentation. I was surely the first preacher they ever had who was stylish enough to “sag” all the way out to his car.
The best part of the whole experience, for me, was entering the sanctuary 40 minutes before the meeting, to discover prayer groups. I sat on a pew and joined them in-between encounters with the deacon chair, the music minister, various senior citizens who wanted to talk, and the sound technician. I heard my name rise out of many of the groups. It was truly humbling. And they prayed for my safe return home that night, another five-hour drive.
I headed out by 7:30 P.M.; stopped at the same Buc-ee’s to change back into my shorts and t-shirt; picked up a to-go sandwich from the Colonel; and stopped at Baylor to look at the bear cage, wake up, and use the facilities.
I arrived at the car rental place before midnight to do a night drop and pick up my car, left for the last 15 hours in their parking lot. And that’s when a miracle occurred. Believe it or not, the person who stole my clothes must have been convicted by the Holy Spirit of his/her sin. And somehow this person figured out who I was, and where my personal car was, and they had beat me home and returned my clothes AND the satchel. For there, hanging in the back window and on the floorboard were all my stuff. God be praised! . . . At least that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if you joined that church and said a prayer for me, too, especially for my mind.
But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today,
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
how much more will he clothe you,
O you of little faith!
[Luke 12: 28 (ESV)