At seventeen, I had the spiritual depth of a fruit fly.
Life was all about me.
- How I felt.
- What I looked like.
- What I wanted.
With this resume, you’d think I’d been a shoo-in for most self-absorbed adolescent on the planet.
Not a chance.
I was a preacher’s kid. Selfishness had to scoot her big behind over to make room for Dad’s ministry. The number of church people who volunteered to help him on a regular basis was almost non-existent. So, my siblings and I worked alongside my mom: fixing meals for the elderly, vacuuming the sanctuary on Saturdays and teaching Sunday school to little kids.
I admit that teaching Sunday school had its benefits.
“So,” I said as I cracked open the lesson book each Sunday, “Anyone want to share something special?”
Before you misinterpret my inquiry as a gesture of compassion, understand that our town had
- no movie theatre.
- No bowling alley.
- No swimming pool.
We snatched up our entertainment anywhere we found it. Listening to little kids “give up” family secrets was a sanctified version of Saturday night Live.
“I want to be a car when I grow up,” one kid blurted out. Good one. Wish I had my tape recorder.
“My mama said a bad word,” another kid shared eagerly.
“A bad word,” I replied, hoping to discover the exact one without asking outright, “How many letters?”
“Teacher,” the youngest student interrupted me as he scooted closer to my chair, “I asked my sister to pray with me last night so I could be saved. She told me to leave her alone.”
In the world of evangelical Christianity, saved was everything. Deliverance from eternal damnation. Freedom from the bondage of sin. Awakening to a relationship with God.
I forgot all about my ecclesial game of trivial pursuit.
“Why didn’t you help him,” I asked his sister who sat beside him.
She answered with all the regal bearing of a scripture memory queen.
“I was trying to read my Bible,” she said, “He was bothering me.”
Yeah, little kids can be a nuisance.
But, what about immature teenagers, emotionally needy church members and socially inept people who never seem to get it right?
The effort it takes to deal with such people can be a drain on any ministry. Its tempting just to ignore their phone calls or pretend we can’t see them when they try to wave us down.
Personally, I do not know how my dad put up with me. An immature teenager. A shortsighted, self-centered Sunday school teacher. It couldn’t have been easy. Or convenient, considering the overwhelming challenges of his ministry.
But, he did.
Maybe, that’s why I’m still here. Still believing.