Since becoming a hospital chaplain, I’m often asked if I miss the joys of pastoring.” Don’t you miss preaching?” they’ll ask.
“A little,” I’ll admit, but pastors are under a lot pressure – like the pressure from parishioners to recruit new parishioners. I was never much good at that.
However, in my days as an active duty military chaplain, I did have a few rather original recruiting ideas – such as happened the day I visited the Security Police station where one of my parishioners worked.
As we were visiting in his cubicle, his boss called him out of the room for a few moments. While he was gone, a group of officers entered the squad room.
Unaware of my presence behind the partitioned office wall, they began to talk.
Their “talk” quickly turned to their dating life as both their language and story plots became a bit graphic. As they told their “can you top this?” stories, one officer quickly claimed his status as a real “ladies man.”
Each one of his stories was centered on his prowess with several women in his Ford Taurus.
After their conversation returned to business, my friend returned from his visit with his boss.
“Do you want to have a little fun?” I asked my friend.
A little reluctant to fully trust his chaplain, he gave me a hesitant, nod.
I filled him in on the detailed conversation I’d overheard in his absence and then asked him to introduce me to his fellow officers.
As we emerged from the cubicle to greet the other policemen, we were wearing matching grins.
Each officer, forgetful of his previous conversations, shook my hand and added a hearty greeting.
Beginning our recruitment drive, my friend laid down the cover fire for the approaching gag when he said, “The chaplain was just telling me how he thought some of you might want to join him this Sunday in the Protestant chapel service for confession.”
Even with the police officers’ sixth sense, they were still unable to sense they were in the crosshairs of an incoming practical joke. Their answers focused on their excuses.
“I’m Catholic,” one said.
“My wife’s out of town,” said the other.
“I don’t have a car,” said a third. With that divinely ordained cue, the target was in sight.
“Well, perhaps one of you might have a nice big car you can use to pick up your fellow officers.”
They exchanged puzzled looks, but the eyes of one officer widened in fear -” target lock.”
“Yeah, I was sitting inside my friend’s cubicle when you all walked into the office. You couldn’t see me, but I could sure hear you. Which one of you has that Ford Taurus?”
Suddenly, my “smart (aleck) bomb” found its target in a young redheaded officer with a buzz cut. Doubled over in excruciating embarrassment, the officer retreated into his cubicle making noises like he was about to lose every donut he’d consumed on shift.
Pointing to the donut box, I said, “You know, I think it might have been Jesus who mentioned that it’s not the things that go into a man’s mouth that defile a man, but it’s what comes out of the mouth that really messes him up.” (Matthew 15:11 The Norris Paraphrase)
For a moment, the officer forgot who he was supposed to be and the words from his mouth made him into the envied Casanova – but in the next moments, the exposure of his words melted him into shame.
In an effort to recruit friends, this officer had tried to be a different person to everyone he met. To his patrol beat, the officer was the protector – to his friends he was the conqueror and to his chaplain he was a shy boy ashamed of what he’d done.
Recruiting friends and followers at the expense of who you are gets awfully expensive to one’s integrity. My guess is that it’s much easier to just be the same person to everyone we meet – which makes it much less likely we’ll forget who we are.