def. honor ~ “regard with great respect”
Our American tribe with its religion of deified individualism and radical egalitarianism has great difficulty understanding “regard with great respect” and therefore finds it completely normal to be able to sit through a two hour movie without having to pee, but totally reasonable to make several bathroom trips during the preaching of God’s Word. I have told my daughter that even though she may find the preacher to be a complete bore (and — sigh! — it is usually me!), she can still honor God’s Word without being a distraction to others who may be trying to extract something useful from the dull preaching by making a trip to the ladies’ room.
There are, of course, medical reasons that necessitate frequent emergency trips and even while I’m preaching I can see the pregnant lady or elderly gentleman slip away and graciously assume that it has probably been twenty minutes since the last frantic dash. Perfectly understandable. But when normally healthy teenagers and adults and children regularly make trips to the bathroom during the preaching of the Word, I cannot help but think that they are bored and quite happy to let everyone know that they are bored. The American tribe seems to lack the courtesy of thinking that great respect involves not only listening patiently but doing everything one can do to communicate to the person speaking and those around that the message is highly esteemed.
Our church is hugely blessed with lots of children and teens. Several years ago there would be so many ups and downs of people making bathroom trips during the message that it was becoming a real distraction for the people trying to listen. And, yes, I do my best to not be boring and to keep everyone’s focus on the message. But, alas!
Anyway, I wrote the following to include in a regular Pastor’s Email in an attempt to humorously appeal for some more restraint during the message. It worked. Mostly. Here’s what I wrote to our body back then:
Since I’m talking delicate issues, let me address another one with a broad smile on my face: bladders! I am going to make a very gentle appeal this coming Sunday that we keep the up and down activity during the preaching to a minimum. I don’t want anyone to be blindsided by this announcement and unprepared, having not sufficiently drained the membraneous sac of all the extra diuretics that were so happily guzzled in between services, thereby feeling unnecessarily conspicuous if they have to make a panicked flight to the porcelain altar despite the pastor having just highlighted the distractive effect of said extra-curricular activity. It is not uncommon to have close to 30 (yes, some have done me the service of counting!) rushed visits to the lavatory in the course of one message! Our room is so small and crowded that it literally draws the attention of almost everyone in the room.
I am just old-fashioned enough to think that it is possible to sit for an extended period of time in worship without a micturition break. I myself have never actually had to take a potty break during one of my messages. But lest you think that I have a titanium bladder or that I have a special advantage being the perpetrator of boredom by my long and monotonous messages, I offer to you as an imperfect model my own 8 year-old daughter. It is only on the rarest of occasions that she has to slip away from her front row seat to find relief in the ladies room (which I have thought might be usefully equipped with closed-circuit TV so that the audience in there could partake of the message). Even then, however, her dash is only permitted (in extreme necessity which is usually made plain to us by yellow tears) during the congregational singing. We honor the preached Word as a family, and we don’t think that since even children in school cannot usually go to the
bathroom without an act of congress it isn’t completely unreasonable to hope that the traffic to the loo can be thinned somewhat from normal congestive state that we are beginning to experience as normal.
So, anyway, since I do not like to blindside people I love, I thought I’d give you a little heads-up with this partially tongue-in-cheek, but wholly serious, appeal. I have said more here than I will say on Sunday. Thankfully!