This past Friday I had the privilege and honor of being a bridesmaid in my good friend Kaitie’s wedding. Kaitie and I have known each other since we were in elementary school. We met at AIM Club, which was the weekly kid’s club at our home church. We bonded during meals of mac and cheese and games of bombardment. We performed in the annual Christmas Eve Services and spring musicals. While other kids dreaded going to CCD, I was thrilled when Tuesday rolled around and I could go to AIM Club with my friends.
Kaitie and I continued to be friends through the awkwardness of middle school and we even played field hockey and lacrosse together in high school. We managed to stay in touch through college and sometimes you can find Kaitie and her mother in the congregation when I preach at Thompson.
On the morning of her wedding, Kaitie, her bridesmaids, and her mother piled into the car to head off to the salon. After a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts we arrived and began taking turns getting our hair and make-up done.
When it was my turn, I sat in the chair and began the polite small talk that always takes place when you are sitting in a salon chair. My hairdresser, Carine, ask where I was from and what I did for a living. And this is always when that perfunctory small talk turns a bit awkward. “I am a pastor”, I replied. There is always a pause, always, as the person tries to process this information. Once she had, Carine shouted loudly to Kaitie, “She is a pastor, what are you doing to me?! Is this a prank or something?” She was laughing as she said it. Next, Carine acted the way many do when they find out I am a pastor. She wondered aloud trying to think back and remember if she had said anything offensive, which she hadn’t. Then she proceeded to apologize if I had been offended, which I wasn't. Then there was some silence before the questions began. There are always questions that people ask me once they find out that I am a pastor. She asked if I could be married, could I drink, was I paid, who paid me, what kind of church is it, how is my church different from the Catholic Church, and so on and so forth.
When I began to have these sorts interacts with folks, I was embarrassed. Not that I was a pastor, but because it seemed to make people so uncomfortable. It is not my job to make you uncomfortable or to second-guess what you can and cannot say in front of me. It would bother me that people felt they had to censor themselves around me. I actually appreciate people like Carine, because they are open to ask questions and maybe discover that pastors are not all scary or judgmental.
After a while Carine began to ask about more spiritual questions. “Do you pray everyday?” she asked. I replied, “Yes, I do.” “I don’t pray everyday, does that make me a bad person?” I replied emphatically, “No, absolutely not!”. Then she asked quietly, “Do you believe in heaven?” “Yes, I do.”
Then she proceeded to tell me that just two months ago she lost her father. They had been very close and she was still grieving his loss. She wondered if maybe her father had sent me, because he was always a good Christian and went to church and said his prayers. I comforted her the best I could and tried to speak a word of hope to her.
Maybe her father did send me there. Maybe God had a bigger plan for me that morning than just getting a nice up-do. It is truly amazing the way that God works. Pastoral care was not on my list that morning. It was a day off and a time I had set aside to be there for a friend on her big day. But God saw fit that I squeeze in a little more of his love that day to someone who was hurting and I was happy to allow him to use me as a source of comfort and hope.