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Pardon Me While I Fix My Halo

By Suzane Jordan Brown

It was the Sunday morning marathon, and I was off and running.

"OK everybody," I yelled as I stuffed the baby’s flailing arms into her jacket. "Are all the teeth brushed? Is all the hair combed?"

With Olympic speed, I tore through the house gathering all the crucial baggage to cart to church.

"Beth, you carry the cake," I said, thrusting our fellowship dinner contribution into her 6-year-old hands. "You boys get your jackets on. We can’t be late today."

Putting on a final burst of speed as I entered the last lap, I slung the baby under one arm and scooped the load of teaching materials, Bible, and reference books into the other.

"Now, Paul, just hand me the salad. No, put it in the other hand. The one attached to the arm the baby is hanging from. That’s right. Now hang my purse on my finger."

"Mommy?" my son asked.

"Yes?"

"Are you going to wear your house shoes to church?"

Shuddering at the near disaster, I staggered back to the bedroom under the load. I didn’t dare put it down. There wouldn’t be time to pick it up again. I kicked off the house slippers and felt around in the closet with my foot. Ah—there was one shoe, but where was the other? I spotted it peeking out from under the bed. It was full of cowboy action figures, but with an agility that would do a gymnast credit, I emptied the shoe and put it on without dropping more than the purse and a volume of Spurgeon’s notes.

"OK—let’s go!"

This time we were going to make it. The preacher’s family is supposed to be at church early, and today I wanted to do everything I was supposed to do. This was the day I was to teach the adult women’s Sunday school class for the first time. Just thinking about it made my insides feel like the Jell-O salad I was juggling.

The pastor’s wife is expected to be able to teach any subject, to any age group, at a moment’s notice; and with the children’s classes, I hadn’t done too badly. With four kids under 7, I felt fairly confident in my home training to see me through. But the adults—that was another matter. The preachers’ wives I had known before I married my preacher husband were calm, sweet, saintly women. They played the piano and sang beautifully, and always had an aura of graciousness and poise about them. I couldn’t play the piano and couldn’t sing beautifully.

And I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to teach an adult class.

I took a deep breath as we pulled into the parking lot. Be gracious, I murmured to myself. Think poise. My calm and gracious manner lasted while I delivered the baby to the nursery and the other children to their classes.

I dashed to my classroom, still burdened down with Mr. Spurgeon, the Jell-O salad, and, unfortunately, the diaper bag. The hasty side trip back to the nursery cost me my narrow edge of earliness. I slid into my seat just moments before the first members of my class arrived.

I straightened my jacket and happened to glance down at my feet. I froze in horror. There was a small plastic cowboy riding my shoe buckle, bronco fashion, but that was easily remedied. The real problem was that my shoes did not match. In my haste I had put on shoes from two different pairs. They were both black, but that’s where the similarity ended. Not only were they obviously different styles, one was a heel and one a flat. How could I not have noticed I was walking split-level?

The ladies were filing in, and my feet were, alas, too big to hide. Let me assure you, it is a physical impossibility to create an aura of graciousness and poise while you are wearing mismatched shoes. There was no help for it. My preacher’s wife performance would have to be scratched today. The only thing to do was to resign from the popularity contest, give my reputation to the Lord, and do my best to teach the class. No doubt, that’s what the Lord had in mind all along.

"Look what I did!" I cried, holding out my mismatched feet. "I’m so nervous about doing a good job teaching this class and wanted to make such a good impression, and I didn’t even get here with matching shoes."

The class shouted with laughter.

"Don’t worry," the eldest and most intimidating of the bunch told me compassionately. "You’ll do fine. We’ll all help you."

Freed from my need to be sedate and gracious, I shared the insights I had gleaned from the lesson in my naturally goofy manner. The class all participated, sharing some funny and insightful stories of their own.

"You did just fine," they all assured me. "We’re looking forward to next week’s class."

Suddenly, I was looking forward to it, too. The absurd mistake of mismatched shoes rescued me from the trap that most in the ministry fall into at some point.

We often complain that people don’t accept the pastor and his family as real, live people. They expect us to be creatures somewhere between men and angels. Yet, we keep trying to live up to those unrealistic expectations. It’s tempting to wear that halo as long as possible, not realizing the halo comes equipped with chains.

The Lord has graciously preserved me from that syndrome by giving me a propensity to do everything wrong. Any time I start slipping into that halo, I do something so dreadful that further pretension is pointless. Like the time I startled the church members at a fellowship dinner by announcing, "I’m simply ravishing." (I meant ravenous. I always get those words mixed up.)

Yet, the people in our church are always kind to me and could not treat me more lovingly. They don’t expect me to be any more than I am. And why should they? I’m only me. I’m here to serve them, not impress them.

And that’s the whole point. If we want the church to accept us as real people, we have to accept ourselves as the real people we are and give them the best that we have, no matter how insignificant that "best" seems at times. The blessing is that the Lord is able to take and use the goofiest and most inefficient servant who is surrendered to Him.


Suzanne Jordan Brown is a pastor’s wife who lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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