Smile for a While
by Greg Spann
(Reprint from Feb/Mar ’95 issue of Today’s Family Matters)
Most of us take life too seriously–we need to laugh more! Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” NKJ What a truth! The Lord placed in us a stress relief valve and it’s called laughter! This column is dedicated to looking at the humorous aspects of everyday life. You’re never defeated if you can laugh at whatever you’re facing.
MEET ME IN ST LOUIE?
The Lord is working to break a long standing habit in me. Something that has been a stronghold in my life most of my years. It’s gotten me into trouble time and time again. I swear I’ll never do it again–but my determination evaporates when the first opportunity to indulge comes along. What is this bondage? I can’t stop myself, I can’t help myself–I HAVE to pull practical jokes. Thankfully, God has a terrific sense of humor! A couple of years ago I learned how a practical joke can bring comic relief to an otherwise depressing and desperate situation. After the devastation of the historic flood of ’93 in Missouri, Donna (then 5 months pregnant with Sheila) and I joined a mission team to go out to the St. Louis area to help with the flood relief and cleanup. Our mission was to go to the hardest hit towns and aid in rebuilding the gutted churches. The team consisted of six people including Donna and I and we stayed with a pastor of a Calvary Chapel in St. Louis; traveling back and forth to where we were needed.
The devastation was complete. Flood waters have no mercy. Everywhere we looked there was mud up to two feet thick; even on the second stories of buildings and houses. It was cold, damp and windy which made the work miserable. It looked as if an atomic bomb had gone off. Stray animals roamed in search of food. People picked through the remains of their once charming homes looking for anything salvageable. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen–or ever WANT to see again.
On one particular day we were putting up drywall and insulation inside a small church until the late afternoon. We became fatigued from cold and hunger and decided to go up to the Salvation Army aid station where there was warmth and hot food – an oasis in the midst of total destruction. My wife and the other woman on the team went ahead in our minivan and we men walked. I must admit that I was not looking my most attractive. Clothed in a well-worn Army field jacket, combat boots, black watch cap and mud-splattered jeans, I probably looked more like a terrorist than a missionary!
After warming up while enjoying food and fellowship with Christians from all over the country who had come to aid in the cleanup, we got ready to return to our work. I grabbed a large flattened box that we needed back at the church we were working on. The other men got a little ahead of me as I was trying to lug my awkward package along. I glanced around and noticed that my red Chrysler minivan was approaching slowly from behind. I decided to play a little practical joke on my wife. Quickly, I turned around and lunged into the middle of the road, concealing the upper half of my body and head with the box. I began to walk in a stiff, Frankenstein fashion at the mini van. I heard the vehicle slow to a stop in front of me. I very deliberately began climbing the hood–being very careful to keep my face concealed with the box. Throwing the flattened box over the driver’s side windshield, I began to v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y l-o-w-e-r it as I contorted my face into the most deranged look I could muster. As I lowered the box down the windshield, I saw two very large blue eyes looking at me over the top edge. My mind quickly computed this information and came up with “incorrect visual data.” My wife’s eyes are hazel-brown; no where near blue. As I continued to lower the box, the rest of the face failed to match as well. I suddenly realized I was looking at two completely terrified women with whom I had absolutely no relationship. After a moment of dead silence, the female driver, blue eyes bulging with fright, asked in a trembling voice: “Can we help you?”
I quickly climbed off the hood of the vehicle, threw my box aside, cleared my throat, and, in a very authoritative manner, replied “You may go now.” Wasting no time, she put the pedal to the metal and just about ran over my foot in the process. I looked around sheepishly, HOPING the whole episode had not attracted any other attention. To my chagrin, I saw another red minivan, this time piloted by my brown-eyed wife, quickly coming up the road. There was no question that she had seen all. The grin on her face told me I’d never live this one down. Turning to my male friends for support was futile. Forget “male bonding, “My “friends” were laughing so hard one was down in the fetal position in the middle of the road. I stood there, knowing I was the deserving victim of my own practical joke. The entire church would hear about it when we returned. My Pastor, after witnessing the entire episode, was already drawing up sermon notes.
I can only imagine what that those poor ladies that I had so badly frightened reported to their church (or Therapist!). I can almost hear their testimony of how a demonically possessed man attacked their van and how they narrowly escaped certain harm. If you are one of those women who, while on a mission of mercy in the flood battered areas outside St. Louis, Missouri in October of 1993, were frightened by a demented terrorist, please accept my sincerest apology. The Lord’s still working on me.