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James R. Stout

The Fly and The Nod

            Sometimes humility is thrust upon us at the most inopportune times. I’m not sure if those events are God’s way of adjusting our attitudes or if they just happen via our own inadequate devices. I’m guessing it’s a little of both. It was the fall of 1988 and I was the part-time youth minister at the church that I grew up attending. Money was tight given I was working two part-time jobs while attending college. The only suit that I owned was a hand-me-down suit from my father. It was beige in color and probably had been quite in style a decade before. It didn’t fit very well either. The sleeves were a little short and the pants had been altered for my father who had a higher waist than I did. So, they were a little tight in all the wrong places. We didn’t have the money to have it altered and it likely would have cost as much to have it altered as a new suit would have cost. I did own a sport coat that I could wear with some dress pants and those two outfits took turns on Sunday mornings. The sport coat was itself about 6 or 7 years old and I could get by with it as long as I didn’t try to button the buttons!

            Sunday morning services required me to sit up on the stage area with the part-time music minister, part-time education minister, and our pastor. We all faced the congregation throughout the service. The only time that I would get up and speak was to make announcements regarding upcoming youth events and to do the children’s sermon. I especially enjoyed the latter because I was always a kid at heart. Still am.

            I always tried to look my best despite my woeful attire. I had been a long-haired type for most the prior 15 years, but I got a short haircut and shaved my mustache and beard. I didn’t feel like myself though. I didn’t look like myself either. But I felt it was expected of me by the older folks in the congregation. It was about that time that I discovered that I didn’t like my ears at all. They are much better operatives when under cover.

            Before the service I had just enough time to get from the youth classes to the sanctuary with a very brief moment to perhaps get a drink of water and to visit the restroom. You simply can’t just get up and leave the service when you’re up on the stage during the service. On this particular Sunday I was running a little late and had to make my pitstop in a hurry. But I made it just in time and was seated in time for the call to worship. We stood up and sang a hymn and then the education minister made the morning announcements for the coming week. Then another couple of hymns. It was during the second hymn when I happened to look down and what did I see? My fly was unzipped. In church. There I was in front of the whole church with my fly unzipped. I quickly bent down and got my Bible and folded my hands in front of me, holding the Bible, and covering the gaping hole. I was mortified. I had visions of the lights bouncing off my tidy whitey’s, which were no doubt peeking out and blinding the congregation. Then I realized that when that hymn was over, I was going to have to walk by myself down to the steps of the stage and gather around the kids for their children’s sermon. How was I going to do that? I couldn’t turn around on some pretense and zip up the zipper because the choir sat behind us and would all have something special to talk about at lunch. I dared not look down for fear of calling attention to my current condition.

            So, what did I do? I became a surgeon. Well, as deft as one anyway. I held the Bible with one hand but managed to make it look like I was using both hands by placing two fingers on the Bible. Then with my right thumb and forefinger, hidden by the Bible, I slowly inched the zipper up. Thankfully it worked smoothly. Just as the hymn ended, I completed the task. Then as I was about to walk down to talk to the kids a thought went through my head. What if it works itself down again?

            I’m glad to tell you that it didn’t. I did the children’s sermon and went and sat down. You would think that would have been enough for one morning. But nooooo! As usual I was operating on about 2 hours of sleep due to I had been up all night delivering newspapers. As exciting as the first 30 minutes of the service were for me, I found myself starting to nod off during the sermon. I took to pinching the soft spot between my thumb and forefinger. If they could have talked, then they would have said something like, “So this is how you treat us after saving your bacon?” Any port in a storm. I didn’t fall asleep, but I sure did a lot of fidgeting up there keeping myself from nodding off.

            Finally, the service was over, and I was ready for a nap. Sunday afternoon naps after lunch were always welcome in our house. As we gathered our two children from the nursery one of the deacons came up and shook hands. He looked at me and says, “You did really well up there today.” To this day I don’t know if he and the rest of the congregation saw it all or not. I certainly was feeling humble after that experience. And, my attitude got adjusted whether it needed it or not.

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