And That’s the Truth!
I have vague memories of Edith Ann skits on the comedy show Laugh In that aired from 1968-1973. I was young, born in 1965, so I imagine it was the later seasons that I remember. While Laugh In may not have been appropriate television viewing for a child my age, I had older siblings and was often able to sneak in some of their shows before Mom or Dad hustled me off to bed.
Edith Ann always sat in the oversized rocking chair holding her doll. She usually wore a jumper, white anklet socks, and Mary Janes. She talked with a childlike lisp as she attempted to narrate life with all the wisdom and knowledge of a five year old. And she always ended her skits with the classic, “And that’s the truth! Phlbtttt!”
I thought of Edith Ann recently. It was on a Sunday morning about midway through worship. The choir was singing the day’s anthem and I was sitting uncomfortably, trying to look comfortable. Complicating matters for me was the “preacher chair” that I sit in each Sunday. You know the chair. It looks a lot like a king’s throne. It was obviously built for the frame of the typical preacher back in the 50’s when the sanctuary was built and furnished. Of course, the typical preacher’s frame back then was that of an average-to-tall male, probably 5’10-6’. I am not a typical preacher. I am a woman of average female size and height. The chair dwarfs me and when I sit up straight my feet don’t quite touch the ground. It was on this day, wearing a princess-waist dress hemmed at the knee and cute but flat summer shoes, sitting in a chair that was much too big for me, that it dawned on me that I must look like Edith Ann.
I thought about little Edith Ann trying to make sense of her big, mysterious world a few moments later as I stood before my congregation to try to make sense of the big, mysterious Word. I could just imagine Big Mama God listening to me ramble on about all the things I thought I had the answers for but was just too little to fully understand. I hoped that Big Mama was simply shaking her head, hiding snickers behind the hand that covered her mouth, thinking my precociousness was more cute than sassy.
I looked out at all the dear people sitting in the pews before me. There was our matriarch who just turned 95. There was one man who received a Purple Heart in Vietnam, another who flew aircraft into war zones, and another who spent months under the sea in a submarine on missions that he still doesn’t talk about. There was the slender woman up front who fears that her husband’s cancer may have spread. There was our head usher who has never gotten over seeing his beloved wife collapse and die in the grocery store parking lot right in front of his eyes. There was the woman whose husband asked for a divorce a few weeks ago. What could I, the Edith Ann in the pulpit, have to say to all these needs sitting in the pews before me?
The fact is, every Sunday I feel like Edith Ann. I hope it isn’t just me who feels that way – I hope every preacher does. We bring to the pulpit what we know. Yes, we know the Bible, the theology, and the theory we learned in seminary. That stuff will buy us a little respect, for a little while at least. What people really want to know though is our story – the experiences that taught us a lesson, the tragedies that have broken our hearts, the times we’ve been so scared we thought we might die, the disappointments that took our breath away, the happiness that made us dance with joy. Then they want to know how that big, mysterious Word helps us make sense of all that life has dealt us.
As I look out at these people whose life stories I am learning, I realize that we’re all like little Edith Ann’s – tiny little creatures sitting in Big Mama’s lap, telling her about our day and what we think it all means. Sometimes we’re on target. Sometimes we’re cute. Sometimes we’re sassy and need stern talking-to. But always – always – we are in the lap of One so much bigger than ourselves, who loves us with a love we cannot comprehend, who has a plan greater than we can imagine – even with our wild Edith Ann imaginations. And Big Mama has an endless patience for our childish understandings and misunderstandings, always ready to teach us a little more when we’re ready to handle it.
For that, I am forever thankful.
And that’s the truth! Phlbttt!