Friday, January 16, 2009

FRIDAY FICTION: The Pastor's Wife


Mattie sighed. She brushed some crumbs off the counter, scooping them up with her other hand and tossing them into the sink. Eyeing the phone again, she carried the plates to the kitchen table. “Lunch is on the table,” she called out loud enough for all to hear. They wouldn’t all come right away, they never did. Even as she headed for the boys’ room, the phone rang, and with a resigned determination she turned back to answer it.

“Yes, it was a truly fine sermon, I certainly agree.” Mattie sighed again. If only Clara would leave her comments at that.

“Of course, Pastor Jerry doesn’t exactly know my own situation. You know, things are easy to say until you have to live in reality.”

“Clara, I’m sure Pastor Jerry does understand.”

“Oh, no, there is no way he understands. If he did he wouldn’t tell me to be thankful. He would know how unfair my situation is. God can’t possibly expect me to be thankful in this circumstance.”

Silently Mattie wondered for what must have been the billionth time if the woman really knew the Lord at all. “Clara,” she said patiently, “Life is unfair. It is not as though God has singled you out for trouble and difficulty.” She hoped her words didn’t reveal the strain which had been building over the months of trying to smooth over the Pastor’s sermons for Clara, nearly every Sunday afternoon.

After a few minutes more of trying to help Clara understand the sermon, and of explaining how it might be practically applied to Clara’s unfair situation, Mattie gave up and excused herself. “Clara, dear, I really enjoy our little talks, but the boys and Pastor Jerry are waiting for lunch.”

Gruffly, she marched once again to Tim and Tom’s bedroom. “Lunch is on!” she scolded. Dropping their toys, the boys raced to wash hands and be seated as Mattie poked her head into Jerry’s office. “Lunch is on.”

Moments later, they held hands at the table and prayed. Mattie sighed and added her own silent prayer. “Lord, forgive me once again for feeling so impatient with Clara.” Aloud, she added to Jerry’s meal time prayers, “And Lord, help Clara with her unfair situation.”

“Tom, leave Tim alone. Don’t poke him with your fork,” Jerry patiently instructed his son. “What’s Clara’s unfair situation this time?” he asked between bites.

“Nothing new. Same old, same old. She just doesn’t think your sermon this morning applies to her because, after all, it is all so very unfair.” Mattie sighed again as a wave of bitterness suddenly rose up inside. “I’ll tell you what’s unfair! It’s unfair that she ruins our Sunday afternoons Sunday after Sunday with her whining! That’s what’s unfair!” Even as the words poured out, Mattie regretted them. Tom and Tim had stopped eating and were staring, wide-eyed at her vehemence. She didn’t look at Jerry for a moment.

When she did, she was surprised to see him smiling. “Sorry,” she said quietly before asking suspiciously, “Why are you smiling?”

“You’re right,” he said agreeably. “It’s totally unfair. I guess it’s way too unfair to apply anything I said in the sermon to. We’ll just let this morning’s sermon be for Clara. After all, God wouldn’t expect…” He stopped and laughed as Mattie playfully slapped his shoulder.

A few moments later, Jerry thoughtfully spoke. “Perhaps there is something we can actually do for Clara. I don’t mean to change the situation, I don’t see what can be done there. But just to encourage her. After all, she lives alone, and maybe the real reason she calls to discuss the sermons with you every time is she just wants someone to talk to.”

Mattie nodded. “We don’t really need all those cookies I baked yesterday. Maybe we could stop over with a few. First, though, I need to stop and pray that God would really help me to be thankful in and even for this situation with Clara.” Even as she said it, Mattie felt lighter in heart and realized something life-changing. Clara hadn’t been ruining Mattie’s Sunday afternoons. Mattie was the guilty one herself by not being thankful in all circumstances, and for not seeing in Clara the opportunity God was presenting to live out what she believed. She looked at her husband and smiled. “Thanks for the sermon, dear. I really needed to hear it!”


Joanne Sher said...

Wonderful message for all of us, Sherri! We all need this lesson. Love Jerry's character in particular.

The Surrendered Scribe said...

I agree with Joanne. Great message I needed to read.

Hoomi said...

As our old Rabbi often said, "Now you've stopped preachin' and started meddlin'!" I think every congregation has a Clara, and I remember a few times feeling this was about ours.