Somewhere out there is a person who knows this story is true. Truth is a big deal to me because I grew up as an exquisite liar. When I came to faith I found that truth shifted big into my priorities. It’s been more helpful than not. This is a true story.
I was told this story over a couple of beers in a little bar in PA by another pastor. The story didn’t actually take a couple of beers, but it was told and we were sitting there… yeah, you get it.
So, my fellow pastor decides he needs a new suit. That’s a big deal for a pastor. New clothes are immediately noticed by parishioners (you know who you are). Comments to many pastors, even complimentary comments, are received as judgments. There are pastors who wonder what everything said to them means. If you notice his or her new suit… perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, I guess we’re paying her pretty well.” Or, “Hmmm… wonder if he bought that before or after the last fundraising campaign.” Many if not most pastors are thin skinned in receiving comments.
I realize I’m not like that, but, I will admit that my son is 35 and I have a picture of him as a nine-year-old and I’m wearing the same jacket that I still wear today. So, maybe I’m just avoiding the comments by wearing clothes until they just fall apart.
I had a man in one church offer me $250 to go out and buy a suit. I had 3 suits that I just didn’t wear that often, but I was advised to accept the money. Then I went to a 2 for 1 sale at a nearby men’s shop and did just that. I have a friend who is an interior decorator, like a “let us fly you to Japan so you can do the interior of our yacht” kind of interior decorator. When I told him about the initial offer he said, “Did you tell him ‘add $750 and then we’ll talk!’?” I didn’t mention the sale to him.
So, anyhow, my fellow pastor gets a new suit that has to be fitted, etcetera, and so he goes to pick it up. Since he has a meeting just after the purchase he wears the new suit out. He arrives at a office building, parks and makes his way through the lot. As he does he realizes there is something cutting at that soft skin in the back of his knee. It begins to plague him as he walks and, of course, he shifts as he is walking, pinches at the material, thinks if may be a pin and stops to examine it all, walks and shifts and shifts and shifts. All the time it is getting worse. He can’t find anything. There’s no lump, no pin, just the little jabbing, gently slicing feeling that gets more and more irritating.
Finally, he’s through the lobby of the building and into an elevator and heading up to the meeting. Now, you should follow his emotional experience of this moment. After all this frustrating irritation, he’s feeling like he’s suddenly in an enclosed space, all alone and with a few minutes to himself when he can probably take care of this issue. He unzips his pants, hunches just a bit and jams his hand down his pant leg to right behind his knee. As soon as his fingers touch it, he knows what it is. It’s one of those “inspected by #3” stickers.
But just as he is able to get it between two fingers, the elevator stops and the doors open. Two women are right there, who suddenly stop their conversation and step back, staring wide-eyed at the hunched man with his hand jammed through his zipper hole. And, of course, my friend says the worst thing he could possibly say at that moment, as the doors close, “Wait! It’s okay! I’m a pastor!”
Pastors will think about what other people think… forever.
P.S. See… didn’t think about the election the whole time you read that, did you?