I had the unexpected honor to serve as an usher at the funeral of a friend on Tuesday September 8, 2015. Another gentleman ushered with me, but neither of us knew exactly what we were supposed to do. Do you sense a problem on the horizon?!?
A nice lady told us there were three reserved sections up front and we needed to ask each person, “Are you with the family, SS class, or tennis group?” We asked and then directed people to the proper reserved section. That turned out to be the easy part of our duties, except for the looks people gave us when we asked the question. The church started filling rapidly, but there were enough seats available.
The family would be entering the sanctuary shortly. That’s when the pastor told me he wanted the ushers to light the candles on the altar and the one by the pulpit. I asked the other usher if he wanted to do it, but he declined. Therefore, yours truly had to do it. Sounds simple, right?
First, I had to find the official candle-lighter-stick thingy—done. Oh, but what about the butane lighter needed to light the candle lighter? Frantic search ensued and I finally found the lighter and lit the candle lighter. Now, all I had to do was walk down the aisle and light three candles. Easy, right? Did I mention that I’m a gray-haired-old man who wears bifocals? Hmmm, the plot suddenly thickens!
I started walking down the “ten-mile” long aisle toward the altar and the flame kept trying to go out. I paused to keep the flame glowing—many times, I paused! I finally got to the altar, bowed my head in prayer, and then lit the two candles with no problem. I turn toward the tall candle by the pulpit, and guess what? I couldn’t see the candlewick. The last person who extinguished the candle had pressed the wick flat. Great!!! This is going to be fun, I thought. At last, the candle started burning—that’s one small feat for a “professional” acolyte, but one giant leap for a gray-haired-old man. Old man then sighs at the sight of the flame flickering away. Success!
All I had left to do to complete my “extremely complicated” lighting task was return to the altar, bow in prayer, turn around, and walk back down the “ten-mile” aisle beyond the sight of two-hundred people. Easy, right?!? Well, not exactly! Here’s when the ooops moment occurred.
Remember those bifocals I wear. Well, they make walking down steps “be like” tough at times—this was one of those times! I turned, took three steps away from the altar, but thought I had to take four. At least that’s what it looked like. The line in my bifocals was hiding the all-important first step. My foot went down expecting to find the hardwood floor of the level platform, but what it found was nothing but air—an entire step-high distance of air!
Picture an old man walking proudly along and suddenly missing the first of three steps. What followed was an acrobatic, less than graceful attempt to maintain my balance while holding the lighted candle lighter in front of two-hundred people. Arms and legs went flying in four different directions.
After flying through the air for what seemed like several minutes, I somehow missed two steps completely and landed upright on both feet; I think the Lord definitely reached out His loving hands and kept me from falling spread-eagle on the floor. Thank goodness He did! I bowed to the crowd as if nothing had happened and said, “Ooops!” as two-hundred peopled laughed and clapped at my awkward, but successful gymnastic display.
Do you know how loud two-hundred people laughing and clapping in a quiet sanctuary can be? Take my word for it; it’s deafening!!! Thank goodness, the family members were not in the sanctuary at the time of my “ooops” moment. The ungraceful fall was bad enough, but the comments I heard during the reception… well, I’ll leave them to your imagination.
Into each life a little fall will come, and it will usually happen when you least expect it!
The point of this embarrassing personal experience is to show that the Lord is always there for us—in our big moments, as well as the little moments in our lives. When we place our fears in His hands, He puts His arms around us and helps us land on our feet when we fall. Have faith and trust in HIM; He will keep you upright on your path.
Proverbs 24-16 (NIV)
… for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.
Ezekiel 3:24 (NIV)
Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me…
Psalms 134:2 (NIV)
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
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