It was a 2.4 million dollar fumble from Ford Motor Co. It was the Super bowl ad you didn’t see – the one depicting a clergyman lusting after their latest truck.
In the commercial, the minister finds truck keys in the collection plate and the new truck in the parking lot. As the minister starts caressing the truck, a congregant and his daughter arrive to explain how the young girl accidentally dropped the keys in collection plate. In the closing scene, the minister is seen posting the next sermon title – “Lust.”
In all the years I pastored, I don’t think I ever preached a sermon on lust. I suppose I knew that a good sermon best starts with your own confessions – and I wasn’t going there.
Now, as a columnist writing during the Christian Lent, I try to communicate both sides of incarnation – the spirit and the flesh. So, this Valentine’s Weekend, I have a confession to make — Lust is a familiar feeling – as familiar as last week.
It was my weekend for National Guard duty, so I ducked into a downtown barbershop where I met a barber that was definitely not my father’s barber. This barber was pleasant, energetic and — gorgeous.
When I requested a military haircut, she asked if I was a pilot. I’ll admit, there was a lustful part of me that wanted to be. Pretty pathetic, huh? No, I’m not a candidate for sainthood; however, my wife has proofread this column and approves of this message.
Lust is the easy substitute for honest relationships. It’s really about categorizing people and wanting them to fit into the image you’ve created for them. It’s about refusing them exit from the fantasy in which you’ve imprisoned them.
The problem is, the prison quickly becomes your prison. And if any of this is sounding like wise advice, let me tell you, wisdom has a way of escaping a man sitting in a barber chair enjoying young hands combing through thin and graying hair.
Nevertheless, I somehow managed a thought about the real person in the mirror behind me and squeaked out a question. Noticing her wedding ring, and twirling my own, I asked, “Do you have kids?”
“Yes, two,” she said, “ages 8 and 5.” She was 32 years old and been married nine years. She migrated from Vietnam ten years ago, learned the language and started a hair styling business.
Hearing her story, my thoughts wondered away from her beautiful hair to the challenges she overcame. I couldn’t help but imagine the Communist bureaucracy she battled and how they must have ostracized her.
Now, the beauty that had fixed my gaze was more toward the center of this person and the heart of her courage. She came to this country alone and later brought her parents.
While she waits for her sister to navigate the post 9-11 red tape, she has ideas of expediting the process by finding the sister a husband. If the sisters look alike, I thought, that shouldn’t be a problem.
I was still struggling to hold my thoughts, but I let her story continue. She waited years to be approved, but someone believed in her and sponsored her to America. Now, she struggles to make a living, raise a family and find sponsors for her remaining family. She misses them enormously.
As the woman’s story called me out of the depiction I had created for her, I recalled the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 ff, when he urged his readers to “appreciate and give dignity” to the human body; adding, “God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful–as beautiful on the inside as the outside.”
She finished cutting my hair. I doubled the tip. I’m not sure why I did that – a guilt offering? Maybe. I’m hoping it was more about finally seeing the real person. But, truthfully, as I’m still human, it will probably always be a bit of both.
*New International Reader’s Version (NIRV) Copyright © 1996, 1998 by International Bible Society