History is replete with strange happenings and weird events. Some call such things serendipity, or luck. Others term it fate or fortune. No one is more aware of this than the media.The New York Times, for example, reported that Mark Twain was born in 1835, the same year that Halley’s Comet made its first run. The comet made its second run in 1910, the year that Twain died. The author who wrote the newspaper article predicted when all that would happen declaring: “The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” Other examples include Ripley’s Believe It or Not and TV’s Mysteries at the Museum, on the Travel Channel, which both deal with bizarre events and things unusual. The world may view these incidents as being inexplicable but Christians believe all this is God’s providence.
Unusual phenomena are found in Scripture. Joshua 10:13 records the sun standing still for an entire day. Isaiah 38:8 states that the sun moved ten steps backward. Balaam was verbally chastised by a donkey in Numbers 22:28-30. Jonah ran from God but was swallowed up by a huge fish and eventually emerged alive (Jonah 1:17). II Samuel 21:20 describes a man with 12 fingers and 12 toes!
Strange, embarrassing, even humorous things also happen to ministers. I knew an evangelist on a weight reduction plan who concluded a service by raising both hands for the benediction and his trousers fell down! Fortunately the choir had already left the platform. A pastor friend was preparing to baptize an eager young boy when the candidate suddenly dove into the baptistery! He wasn’t injured, but the congregation enjoyed his dive. This same pastor mentioned having dinner in a guest’s home and was served a slice of cherry pie. But when he bit into it, he realized that his host never took the pits out of the cherries…
What you’ve read thus far is to prepare you for a true story about events that happened when I was a younger pastor. I am calling this unusual evening “A Night to Remember,’” after Walter Lord’s book about the Titanic tragedy. My story is more humorous than tragic. You just can’t make up something like this.
One Sunday night while listening to a missionary present a Jewish Passover Seder, my right contact lens popped out of my eye. Since I was seated in the front pew, I began to inconspicuously look around and discovered the lens had landed next to me in a small Tupperware container. I quietly slipped it into my handkerchief and carefully placed it into my shirt pocket. After the service, while greeting people, I heard someone crying. An usher told me that a teenage girl seated on the back pew was in tears. I sent for her to come to my office. She was a sight! Her tear-stained face was covered with bloody scratches. Sobbingly she admitted that she had had an argument at home and had run away. Her path led through some briars that tore her clothing and bloodied her face. I prayed and counseled with her while she quietly listened. She then asked if she could catch a ride to meet someone she knew and I agreed to drive her there.
While preparing to take the teen to her destination, I learned that one of our nursery babies had severed her finger on the edge of a playpen after falling out of a rocking chair. Her grandfather had rushed her to the hospital. I ran to the nursery and searched for a severed finger but found nothing. As time was ticking away, I dropped the teen off at her destination and hurried to the hospital. Despite the late hour, the security guard greeted me warmly as I explained the urgency of my visit. My first step was the men’s rest room in order to reinsert my contact lens. In my haste to get to the injured child, I fumbled in my pocket for my folded handkerchief only to discover the contact lens had disappeared. I frantically searched the floor and around the sink area and noticed something shiny between the wall and the soap dispenser. Removing the soap dispenser from the wall, I found my lens! But suddenly the dispenser slipped through my hands spewing liquid soap all over the rest room floor. At that instant, the guard appeared, saw the floor, and stared at me for a response. I meekly apologized, handed him the dispenser, and tiptoed out of the rest room, explaining that I had to see a patient due to an emergency. The stunned guard watched as I exited toward the elevator. Reaching the patient’s room, I was surprised to see her in good spirits, waving her bandaged-attached finger in the air. Today, she is a happy pastor’s wife. That night was packed with surprises, but without question it was truly a night to remember.
I thought about Job who had everything: health, wealth, a beautiful family, a good testimony, and God’s blessings. But in one day he lost everything. So what did he do? Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job did not sin and he did not accuse God of wrongdoing” (Job 12:1 NKJV). Isaiah 61:3 prophesied that Messiah would come: “To give them [and us] beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Sadness and celebration. Pain and beauty. Heartache and joy. These all seem to intermingle. There is a time to weep, but also a time to laugh (Eccl. 3:4). Everyone experiences a night to remember. So beloved, don’t be afraid to laugh, even at yourself.