As worshippers entered the sanctuary there were smiles, hugs, handshakes, and laughter. Pews and heartd were filled to capacity before the service of worship was even begun. And what a worship service it was! In our non-denominationalism we had elements from various Christian traditions: Liturgy, Holy Communion, praise and worship music, scripture reading, a sermon. It came together perfectly.
As the worshippers left on this particular Sunday, many spoke of how moving and inspiring the words and music had been. They spoke of the warmness of the welcome and how freely the Spirit seemed to move. As they all trickled by me, deep within my heart, pride blossomed. Had I not helped in selecting the music for this day? Were not those life-giving prayers written by me? Didn’t I pick the Bible readings? And that sermon! Was it not an oratory masterpiece ? Sure, I coyly deflected the compliments that came my way. No one gets ahead by being too brazen. But inside I was one smug son-of-a-gun. The more people gushed the more “humble” I became. And the more people gushed the more my private arrogance grew.
A lady approached me reading eloquently from the script of flattery. I felt my shirt collar tighten once more as my head continued to swell. But when she added, “However, I must tell you something,” I should have remembered that “pride goeth before a fall.” With a dancing grin on her face, the kind of grin that said she already knew the not-yet-delivered punch line, she relayed to me her worship experience. As she sat through my illustrious sermon she happened to glance out the huge church window positioned to her immediate left.
There, just on the other side of the glass was my son, Braden, only four at the time, playing on the lawn. He was in his own precocious world: Picking a flower here and there, doing cartwheels, tossing stones, lost in his imagination. Then, nature called. This son of mine looked to the right and he looked to the left. When he was reasonably certain of solitude, he dropped his pants and relieved himself on the church wall, oblivious to the hundreds of worshippers behind the glare of the church windows. As this parishioner cackled, told her story and walked away, the loud hissing sound that filled the now empty sanctuary was my deflating ego. I was mortified.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the future kingdom of God as a place where a “little child shall lead” around the ferocious animals of the jungle as if they were family pets. I am certain he did not have my son in mind. Still, the prophecy rang true on this particular Sunday. Inside the church I was committing the sacrilege of pride, taking tribute that belonged only to God. Outside, my son was lost in Eden-like innocence. The inside of my heart was filled with ferocious self-importance and overconfidence. The inside of his heart was filled with disarming purity and a clearness of conscience.
Which is worse? Indiscretion and poor manners performed out of innocence, or public showmanship that is driven by arrogance and pride? I learned all too quickly the answer: A pierced ego is good medicine for the soul. Yes, sometimes everything comes together perfectly: In life, at home, even in church. I had one of those perfect Sunday mornings not long ago. My little boy placed his collar around my neck and gently led me home.