Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Comic Book Collection

The church we attended was in cold country. A big coal stove stood in a corner in the back and before services the pastor started a fire in it.
No insulation or sheetrock covered the walls. The 2-by-4s were uncovered. The hardwood floors installed years before were bare and dirty. They’d never been sanded and varnished.
When we moved there I was astounded at the neglect.
We became close friends of the pastor and his wife and when they went on a vacation, I threw out an idea to the youth group. I was president and in those days the age went to 35 so most of the church was in on it. We would finish the church! Give and work and surprise our church shepherds.
Sheetrock was delivered and men brought hammers. Women helped tape, mud joints, and paint. A big rental sander sped across the floors. Everyone grabbed gunny sacks and filled cracks. Then we cleaned and varnished and put a warm new rug in the altar area.
Since we had so many workers I suggested the men build a cabinet around the parsonage kitchen sink. I was sure it must be cold to stand there, and it was ugly with the bare pipes showing. The parsonage was in the back of the church.
Suddenly everyone invaded our pastors’ privacy. I thought it was OK because we cleaned from top to bottom. But then, a man walked through the kitchen carrying a trunk.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Throwing these comic books away.” I was only age 17 and the man was old enough to be my father.
“Are you sure you should do that?”
He ignored me and out he went.
I knew our pastor valued his comic book collection. Many were still in cellophane. He knew someday they would be worth big bucks.
Suddenly, my ego about what a great thing I suggested smashed like snow under a boot.
When the pastor and his wife returned, they were surprised at what the church had done in their absence. They seemed astounded and pleased, but I felt rotten about the invasion of their home and their loss of a valued possession.
We moved away soon and so did the pastors. They visited us a time or two, but we lost touch. The comic books haunted my dreams for years and every time I heard a news report about an old comic book being sold for thousands of dollars, guilt gripped me.
Forty years later we reconnected and first thing I did was apologize about the comic books. After all, the renovation was my idea.
Our former pastor gladly extended his forgiveness. Yet, as we became close again I observed our the family’s finances had always been tight. It saddened me.
Then I remembered what a wonderful attitude the pastor and his wife had. They didn’t become bitter and were rich in things that count: Their own salvation, rewarding ministry, and four children and a number of grandchildren all serving and working for the Lord.
The comic books probably would be worth a fortune now. I still feel throwing them away was a mistake, but our precious friends are blessed after all—and I am blessed knowing them.