“I can find my robe,” Merv said, but where is my stole?” I am pretty sure that optometrists do not have a gadget to detect the ‘looking without seeing’ affliction. I am also sure that the ability to ‘look and see’ is only inherited on the female line. At any rate, the stole was on a hanger in the closet where it had been for a long time. He was ready.
Having a preacher as your husband or your father or your wife lends itself to teasing. One son was asked to explain the history of the Bible by the third grade teacher. The degree was assumed to be hereditary I guess, or maybe Bible knowledge was thought to be studied en masse at dinner. Another child, when caught doing something 7 year olds do, heard “How could YOU do this? Your father is a preacher.” The worst story I heard was of a preacher at the chapel down the road. The family had 6 children under the age of 6. The wife was in the front pew with all of them. The husband was preaching. The babies began to cry. “Woman,” he orated from the pulpit pointing directly at his wife, “Remove those children from this sanctuary!”
Merv never did that, of course not, and I loved hearing him preach. Always well thought out and organized and frequently very moving. He discovered the rich reservoir of sermon illustrations that the normal family business creates…am I my brother’s keeper? Let the little ones come onto me? Get thee behind me, Satan? The parting of the seas? Babies in baskets? If there are kids in the house, there are illustrations. The unhoped for? The feast? Sarah? The discovery of a child on the way? What a handy thing a wife is for a preacher.
I am in that beautiful white church with its old shutters, its remarkable ceiling of coffered wood, patterns of triangles and squares, its windows streaming with light. I am sitting towards the middle with a baby on my lap when the story is told from the pulpit about my baby and me. Everyone turns to look at me. It is not an unsympathetic story. It is not an unsympathetic look. But I turn bright red. Well, there is a story in that, too.
The solution comes to me in that moment. Royalties! If Merv preaches about me he owes me royalties. $5.00 per mention of my name I decide. I tell the children. They see an opportunity as well. A small fringe benefit for the obligations and assumptions that swirl around the preacher’s family. The children attend church without complaint, the deal being that you have to be there in person in order to collect the money.
It is a long time since Merv has preached regularly. He doesn’t have to pay up much anymore. I have just realized something. I have just realized that this little story is going to cost ME some bucks. $20 if I counted right. And if he reads it. I will be very careful, though, never to mention kids, sisters, neighbors, by name. I would not be able to afford the royalties.