Even on Easter, come as you are

By Aaron Helman

It was the week before my first Easter as the youth pastor at my new church in a suburb of Indianapolis, and that meant it was probably time to buy a suit. But given my status as a mostly broke college student, a good suit was hard to come by. That’s how I wound up at the local Goodwill (on a half-price Saturday, no less!), piecing together suit separates and trying to build a look I could be proud of. Failing that, maybe I could find something that was at least not embarrassing.

I settled on a brown suit. The pants were a little too long, the jacket was definitely too baggy, and I paired the set with a turquoise tie that really brought out my baby blues, thank you very much. On Easter morning, I woke early, showered, dressed; and then gave myself a shrug as I looked in the mirror. It wasn’t much, but it was more presentable than I’d looked in a long time.

Easter in Indiana presents in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s sunny and 70, weather that feels suitable for the celebration of the Resurrection. Other times, the empty tomb is met with snow, conditions that make the rest of us want to roll back the stone and go back to sleep. This particular Easter was wet and dreary, the kind of spring day that promises to bring May flowers. I collected an umbrella. I wasn’t about to ruin my new suit, after all.

I drove in toward church with the sunrise behind me. These were familiar roads. I knew where the water pooled, where puddles turned into ponds. The woman in front of me did not know those roads. I watched in horror as she hydroplaned, overcorrected, and finally skidded to a stop in a ditch.

I considered my new suit, but I couldn’t just ignore her, and more importantly, I knew that I wouldn’t. She was OK, but she was stuck. She asked for a push. I thought about it longer than I should have. I told her I would.

My feet sought out whatever solid footing they could find, I took hold of a stable position, and mustered all of the strength that my 150-pound cyclist’s frame could find. I hollered my final instruction to the woman in the driver’s seat:

“Now, don’t gun it!”

I guess all she heard was, “Gun it!”

In the briefest moment of grunting exertion, choking exhaust, and splattering mud; the woman was free.

And I was a mess.

I spoke to the woman for just another moment or two. I wished her a Happy Easter, and watched as her face dropped. She looked me over.

“Oh no,” she spoke. “You’re not going to church, are you?”

I told her I was.

“Well it’s a good thing you don’t go to my church!” she told me. “They’d never let you in like that.”

I told her I would be OK. She drove off and I drove off behind her. For the next five miles, I followed the woman, turn for turn, all the while praying that her church wasn’t the same one I was headed toward now.

It wasn’t.

I breathed a sigh of relief when she turned right and I turned left. I found my church, insufficiently cleaned myself up with a mess of paper towels that deposited themselves too slowly from their automated dispenser.

I think about that woman often, probably too often. I don’t know which church that woman attended. I don’t know if what she said about it was true, and the optimist in me wants to believe that it’s not.

There are a lot of lessons that skilled preachers could have taken from this adventure. There’s probably something about the Good Samaritan, maybe a lesson about why we shouldn’t ever worry about what we are.

But there’s an equally valuable lesson that transcends even faith:

If you’re going to push a car out of the mud, make sure you’re wearing the cheapest brown suit you can find.