I wore a dress to church last Sunday.
In these casual days, I rarely wear a dress to church. But, since the day had dawned fair for a change, with a brisk, warm wind pushing winter away and carrying with it the promise of spring, I felt like dressing up.
After the 10 a.m. service concluded, I hurried to the back exit with my husband, hoping to squeeze in lunch at a restaurant before the arrival of furniture-delivery men that afternoon. I began making my way down the stairs while the greeter below held the back door wide open to admit the steam of folks coming in for the 11:30 a.m. service.
That’s when a strong gust of wind blew through those open doors with a whoosh, traveled up the stairs, and lifted the bottom of my dress and slip straight up in the air.
“Oh my gosh!” I slapped my dress down and scanned the staircase. Had anyone seen that? (Answer: of course they did; the stairway was full.) And how much did they see? (Answer: since most of them were not only walking up but looking up, probably quite a bit.)
My husband looked at me with compressed lips. “You hussy.”
I grabbed his arm, sped down the remainder of the stairs, and out the door, thinking…
It happened again.
I don’t mean to be an immodest church lady. In my defense, none of my episodes of blatant brazenness were my fault.
Like the time when we lived in the suburbs of Chicago…
I’d worn my favorite royal-blue dress to church, the one with the five big buttons up the front. Fifteen minutes into church, my two-year old son—kid number one—began fussing. When I picked him up to console him, he cried and thrashed, pushed and grabbed in an attempt to get back down onto the floor.
That’s when button number two flew off and landed on the wooden pew with a ping.
I hugged my son to my chest, which caused him to struggle even more. But between button number one at my neck and button number three at my waist, the top threatened to gape wide open if I let him go.
My husband squinted at me. “What are you doing? Just let him down.”
I gave my husband a wide-eyed stare. “My button flew off, and our son is the only thing keeping my dress together. What…what…do I do?”
“I don’t know,” was his helpful answer.
I ignored the family behind me, who were giving me disapproving looks, and stepped closer to my husband. “I can’t stay like this for the whole service,” I hissed. “I feel like an idiot. Do something!”
The something ended up being a march down the aisle with the button clutched in my hand and my squirming son clutched tight against me. In the lady’s room, I found a safety pin in my purse, reattached the button, and slunk back to my seat with a few apologetic smiles to the people around me. For the rest of the service, I was afraid to move lest that safety pin pop. And when the service ended, I was outa there.
After we moved to Michigan, it was my daughter, kid number two, who ensured that I continued in my trend as an immodest church lady. If I’d only stuck to wearing a dress, I would have been okay. But—go figure—I was leery of mixing dresses, young children, and church.
Instead, I wore skirts to church.
Thanks to the effects of chasing, lugging, and pushing two children around all day, I’d slimmed down to my pre-kid weight, and one of my favorite skirts was a little loose. But no one would notice, right?
Enter, once again, the fussy church child.
I hadn’t sat through a church service from start to finish in years, and I was determined to make it through the worship songs at least. I stopped singing and stooped down. “Here, honey,” I whispered to my daughter as she held her hands up to me and whimpered. “Look at the nice picture book, and please, please let me worship for once in peace.”
I straightened and continued singing while she stood at my feet and whined with upraised arms. I would ignore her for one song, just one, and concentrate on the Lord.
That’s when my daughter, tired of not being the center of my attention, clasped the material of my skirt with her chubby hands and gave it a determined yank. And since it wasn’t tight around my waist, guess what?
All I can say is, I’m glad I wore a one-piece slip.
I grasped my skirt and pulled it back up into place. And, no, I didn’t look around to see if anyone noticed. By now, I was an “If-you-don’t-look-around-to-see-who’s-looking-then-you-can-convince-yourself-that-no-one-saw” kind of gal.
I glanced at my husband, who rolled his eyes at my chagrin. I knew what he was thinking—his sweet wife is a nice Christian lady who can’t seem to keep her clothes on in church.
Then we birthed kid number three.
We had moved again and were now attending a new church. My youngest son, alias kid number three, is a quirky, creative kid. Embarrassing Mom by declothing her in church was old hat by then. Instead, he’d bide his time and wait for the perfect moment to spring a more sophisticated plan.
And that moment came during the Christmas Eve service.
In the third row from the front, my family sat with our close friend, Peg. Peg is ten years older that I am and has no children, so she was a willing helper with my three kids. That evening, my husband sat at the end of the row, holding our one-year-old son in his lap. Peg sat next to him, then my other son and daughter, and finally, myself
During the most solemn moment of our pastor’s message, my youngest son implemented his plan. In the hush of the sanctuary, he released a loud, long stinker.
I slumped lower in my seat, wondering if I’d ever be able to go to a church without being humiliated by my children. As I felt my face burning, out of the corner of my eye I saw Peg lean forward and begin to shake.
I couldn’t blame her. Let’s face it—it doesn’t matter how old you are—when someone makes a stinker in public, unless, of course, it’s your own kid, our first tendency is to snicker. Therefore, despite my mortification, I felt the chuckle rise in my throat and fought to contain it. That’s when I made the mistake of glancing at Peg and saw her staring back at me with her mouth open in silent hysterics.
I tried to resist. I really did. But, as everyone knows, watching someone in the throes of uncontrollable laughter is inevitably contagious. Compounded by the fact that I was in a situation where I shouldn’t laugh out loud, it becomes even harder to control myself.
Within a minute, I too was bent forward and trying my best to hide behind the chairs in front of me as tears streamed down my face. Even the curious peeks from my oldest two children and the stern expression on my husband’s face did nothing to stem the giggle tide. I have no doubt that the people around us radiated displeasure while we crack up through a solemn message about the immeasurable love of our God, who became human to save us from our sin.
I’m also certain that our pastor noted the untimely emission from my son as well as my unbridled hysterics. To his credit, he never mentioned either episode, and I can only hope that he blamed me only for the second incident and not for both. To be honest, I never found the courage to ask.
I could also tell you about the time my son sprinted up the aisle to the altar with me in hot pursuit. But I think I’ll save that story for later.
That’s my confession. I am an immodest church lady. However, I’m forever grateful to my big God, who extends his grace and mercy to me and overlooks the fact that, thanks to my children and now the wind, I haven’t been the perfect example of a prim-and-proper Proverbs thirty-one woman every time I’ve entered his house.
But, I believe with all my heart that God is looking down on me with understanding and love.
And I think I see him laughing.