Moments of joy followed by moments of pain

By  Pastor Damen Heitmann 

First United Church,

Little Falls

Recently I decided to learn how to put my pants on two legs at a time. Now you’re hopefully wondering why. Well its partly my doctor’s fault. The sign in my doctor’s office contains instructions on how best to live an excellent life.

Among things like, “Send lots of Valentines,”  “Always be the first person to say ‘Hello,’” and another piece of advice reads, “Commit your to constant self-improvement.”

So that is, in part, why I wanted to learn to put on pants two legs at a time. It was a self-improvement project. Doctor’s orders.

The other reason is a bit more idiosyncratic. There is a certain part of me that likes swimming upstream. So whenever I’d hear the oft-repeated bit of folkloric wisdom, “We all put our pants on one leg at a time,” I’d usually think something like, “That can’t be true.”

To begin with, not every- body has legs. What expression would a person without legs use to express such sentiment of commonality? Secondly, so what?

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you and I did both put our pants on one leg at a time. Isn’t it what I do once the pants are on that matters? If I spend my panted days running around backwards singing pirate chanties and you spend your panted days playing cello with Yo Yo Ma, then who cares how those pants got on in the first place?

Plus, I always thought it would be fun to be able to openly and honestly respond with an exuberant, “Well, not ‘all’ of us,” whenever I hear someone say, “We all put our pants on one leg at a time.”

So there you have it, a seed of contrarian disposition meets with liberally interpreted doctor’s orders and a new project is born. My new goal was to become the man who puts on pants two legs at a time.

My first few attempts were lamentable. Mostly they involved poorly attempted feats of acrobatics which entailed attempting to hold the pants near the ground and jump into them. This resulted in limited success and a couple of close calls between my forehead and the night stand.

Back to the drawing board I went. The basic premise was good; both feet have to go into their respective leg holes at the same time. The jumping was a problem.

Eventually I devised the following system. I sat down on the edge of the bed. Then, holding the pants below my feet, I raised my knees toward my chest until I could slide them safely into their places. Then I rolled backwards onto the bed, like turtle on its shell, and extended my feet ceilingward while simultaneously bringing my hands (holding the waistline of the pants) toward my hips. When all seemed properly aligned I rolled back to my feet and just like that I’d become the man who puts on his pants two legs at a time.

Now there are two things you must understand. 1) I’m under no illusion that I’m the first person to ever discover this possibility. 2) You’ve no idea how long this particular phrase has bothered me.

I can remember being vexed and annoyed by this phrase all the way back in high school. So the anticipation and excitement contained within the moment of that very first truly successful and sustainable two-legged methodoloy had been building for years. The very first time I found myself rolling back to my feet in such a smooth motion with my pants firmly in place I found myself nearly overcome with joy.

I flung my hands upward in celebration and exuberance thereby smashing my left hand into the light fixture dangling from the ceiling.

And just like that my exuberance abated and I was left clutching a throbbing little ball of pain next to my chest. Luckily I am apparently blessed with sturdy light fixtures because nothing broke and there wasn’t blood all over the place. However, my joy had been replaced disappointment and I was left feeling foolish and embarrassed about just how much faith I’d put into such a fleeting moment.

But then again, life is like that, is it not?

Passing moments of glory, exuberance and ecstasy, followed by tragedy, disappointment or plain and simple boredom. It is surprisingly often in life, that the moments of our greatest joy lead almost inevitably to the moments of our greatest pain.

Don’t believe me?

Ask a parent and they can tell you that their children are a tremendous blessing and also a tremendous aggravation. Ask anyone in a relationship and they can share that their partner is wondrous and maddening all at once. Ask a disciple about Palm Sunday. Then ask again come Friday.

And now you see where I’ve been going all along. The triumphant road into Jerusalem can lead to no place but the cross. The preaching of good news to the poor, release to the captives, wholeness to the fractured and freedom to the oppressed, while compelling and glorious, can only lead to ignominy and desolation. To call for the world to be put right-side-up will inevitably make him an outcast.

And the question remains as always, “Will we follow?”