There should be a certain age when a man or woman reaches the maturity to know of a certainty not to climb up on a wooden ladder purchased by the church shortly after World War II.
Whatever that age is, Meningsbee was short of it.
For weeks, he had asked several of the church deacons to unclog his gutters at the parsonage. He was reluctant to make the request–everybody knows it’s a horrible job. Not only does it involve climbing, but sticking your hands in unimaginable slop.
But drainage was becoming a problem so he found a wooden ladder in the storage room at the church, donned a pair of gloves and climbed. He noticed that the last step creaked just a little bit, and even felt a slight wiggle, but decided it was just adjusting to his weight.
He was in the midst of reaching for a particularly drippy mess when all at once, the ladder gave way. It cracked, tipped and he went flying through the air, landing on the concrete sidewalk.
He was in trouble, unable to get to his feet.
Fortunately Pas Carl was within shouting distance, and immediately came, called an ambulance, and in no time at all Meningsbee was at the county hospital, receiving the news that he had broken both legs–a tibia in his right and a femur in his left.
It was so serious that it was necessary to put him in a body cast up to his waist.
Meningsbee asked the physician if there were other options. The doctor laughed and said, “Yeah. You could have chosen not to break your legs.”
Meningsbee did not think it was funny. He found himself needing the kindness of strangers. Well, maybe not strangers, but the people he normally served were being drafted to be servants to him.
The good news was, he would only be in the cast about eight weeks, and in about four weeks they could change it over to what they referred to as a “walking cast.” Even though he thought that sounded a little like an oxymoron, it did grant some possibility. But for four weeks, he was going to need assistance.
This was especially troublesome since he was in the midst of his faith crisis and did not need to add on a physical one.
His life became very simple in a complex way. Pas Carl and a couple of men came to pick him up every morning to go to the church office, and people came to see him instead of him going to see them.
They retrieved him, took him home and served him lunch, and he spent the afternoon napping. He had never napped before, but as it turned out, it was the best part of the experience. Matter of fact, he was pretty darned sure he was committed to napping for life.
In the evening, a family from the church simply brought over their dinner, and the whole family sat and ate with him. It was a nice system. Annoying as hell, but nice.
It was about two weeks into the recovery that he was rummaging through some files in his office, when he came across a DVD. All that was printed on the label was “First Look.” Normally he wouldn’t give it another thought, but he was particularly bored and aggravated at the ambiguity of the disc.
So he popped it into a nearby computer and sat back to see what it had to offer. To his surprise, it was the first Sunday he was at the church, which had been videoed by one of the members and got stuck in the drawer. He decided to watch.
He laughed when he saw himself come in the church. He looked so out of place–not just a duck out of water, but a duck completely out of “duckdom.”
The congregation seemed rigid and cold compared to the group that gathered now. It felt more like an inquisition than a fellowship.
He listened as he boldly addressed them about the dream of having a “Jesus Church.” Since the video was shot from a distance, he could clearly hear the murmurs from the crowd when he made points that were not pleasing to their traditional sensibility.
Even though he had arrived less than three years ago, in the video he seemed so young, so idealistic, so ill-prepared.
All at once he found himself crying. How could something be both the most amazing and the most disappointing experience of your life?
Amazing because all the things Jesus said would make humans powerful and viable ended up being true. Meningsbee realized that when he relied on Jesus he was very effective.
But it was also very disappointing, because he found himself disillusioned, broken in spirit, and now broken in body as well.
He watched the DVD all the way to the end, and was so glad he did–because at the conclusion the family who had shot the video turned the camera on the father of the family, and the wife–or the woman Meningsbee assumed to be his wife–asked the question, “So what did you think of the new preacher?”
The father stood for a minute, thinking, posing for the camera, and said, “Well, they say he wrote a book called ‘The Jesus Church.’ If you ask me, he’s got too much Jesus and not enough church.”
There was a laugh and the camera was turned off.
Meningsbee’s heart grew in his chest. Suddenly a joy that had been absent for weeks came back inside his soul and took its rightful place. Even though the father in the video didn’t deem himself a prophet, he was one.
The goal that Reverend Richard Meningsbee set for himself driving up to the church that day was to make sure that after he was done in Garsonville, the people would have seen Jesus instead of just a church.
Everything clicked into place. His timepiece with God was reset. Things were good.
Things were really good.