My pastor has been on my mind and heart lately because he has been through so much in recent days. He is an incredible man with a true heart for God and for people and, when that's who you are, you go through a lot. He lives his faith. He's the real deal.
So naturally, this has led me to think of false teeth. Not that he has any, false teeth I mean, he has actual teeth (though I haven't tried to remove them so I'll do that and get back to you). But I had another pastor I dearly loved when I was four years old and he had enormous false teeth. This one fact can highly recommend you to four-year-olds, especially if you take the teeth out on demand. You must then extrude them from your mouth just far enough to resemble a scene from "Aliens." At this point you should snap and clack them a few times, and then suck them back in. What is not to love here?
I constantly demanded that this fabulous talent be demonstrated and he never let me down. In addition, from my diminutive perspective, he was at least thirteen feet tall. I would ask to be lifted up and he would perch me on his shoulders. This afforded me a view of the surrounding countryside as well as a direct look into his snapping jaws. I could bend over, twist my head around, and watch from two inches away with abject horror and complete fascination.
I had no idea this man was my pastor. His name was Brother Whitaker but every single man in our little backwater Southern Baptist church was Brother Something-Or-Other. Nothing about the title caused me any sort of appropriate awe or reverence. I presumed he had been created for my entertainment. Apparently, I paid no attention in church or I might have noticed him in the pulpit. I was too busy flirting with Ronnie Miller.
Ronnie Miller was about 18 years old and as handsome as a movie star. And he sported his own teeth. My mother always sat towards the front but Ronnie was in the back. Every time I would sashay by, and I made frequent excuses because I needed to take a good, long look at him in all his glory, he would talk to me. He would never fail to tell me he was going to marry me when I grew up. I believed him without doubt. On Sundays, I would smooth out my crinoline and shine my patent leather shoes to be sure I looked like marriage material. And he would not fail to remind me that we were an item.
One Saturday, he two-timed me and married a girl named Sharon. He walked her right up the aisle I had walked down a hundred times just to stare at him. She had nothing on me as far as I could tell and it made absolutely no sense. My heart was a shambles and I never loved again until I was eight. Even now I run into him at get-togethers and always remind him that he left me at the altar, sort of. That's how un-petty I am.
I soothed my little soul with dental entertainment. Brother Whitaker and his choppers were good medicine. Food helped, too. One time he took my brother to church camp and let me ride along up to Hume Lake. Those were the good old days when kids could stand in the front seat and launch through the windshield when you had to stop fast. Along the way he bought me a whole pack of Oreo cookies and a carton of milk. These were rare treats in my life. By the time we had traveled up and back and spent nearly a day, my milk was sour. I took a big drink, spit it across the room, and howled. In typical good-guy fashion he took me to the store and bought more milk. Some guys know how to treat a lady.
I will always wonder what became of Brother Whitaker and his teeth. He and his wife left our church not long after those days. I doubt he ever found a more appreciative audience for his special talent but he certainly laid down a fondness in my heart for pastors who are willing to go above and beyond.
And now, having come full circle, I appreciate a pastor who tends to my soul and does not feel the least compelled to share his dental work with me. So, maybe I won't check his teeth. He has been a gift from God and you should never look a gift pastor in the mouth, unless you're four.