I was in early elementary school and my older brother (who was in high school) had taken me into town with him to a basketball game. It was raining that day and he was driving our very old (maybe 1974) green International pick-up truck. This is what every high school boy dreams of: driving an old beat-up truck into town to meet your friends . . .with your little brother along (I’ll bet it raised his stock with the girls though. I was, after all, adorable).
When we were leaving the school, we walked through the drizzling rain and I climbed into this giant monstrosity of a truck and settled in. I would be shocked to find out that this thing even had seat belts, but if it did, they certainly never got used. This was rural Kansas in the early eighties. The only thing seat belts were used for was to give you third degree burns when you got in the car in your swimsuit in the middle of July.
As we were pulling out of the parking lot, my brother turned a giant loop to head toward the street. I was already leaning on the door but the turn applied just enough of my weight to the door to make it fly open.
That was the day I discovered centrifugal force.
I flew out of the truck and went careening across the wet parking lot surface on my stomach. Think superman on asphalt. If pick-up-truck-brother-flinging were an Olympic event, we would have picked up the gold that day. I slid a LONG ways and did it with style.
Now, there are a few things you really don’t want to happen in your life when you are a teenage boy:
- You don’t want your parents to get out old home movies from when you were little and show them to your girlfriend (another story for another time).
- You don’t want the store to run out of Clearasil AND
- You don’t want to have to explain to your mom why your little brother flew out of the pick-up truck while you were driving
So, as I was coming to a stop, my brother put the truck in park, ran out to me in panic and found that I was almost entirely unscathed. How in the WORLD is this possible?
It was my ugly sweater.
Well, let me be more theologically accurate. It was Jesus . . .who in his infinite wisdom provided me, through my mom, with the thickest ugly sweater in the Midwest. If I had been wearing my favorite E.T. t-shirt that day, it would have been a bad scene.
In life, sometimes we fall out of the truck. Some of you at this very moment feel like you are careening uncontrollably across wet pavement. So what is the ugly sweater that will help to insulate you from permanent damage, you ask?
It’s community. It’s your friends and family and small group. They are your ugly sweater.
“Hey man, are you saying my friends are ugly?”
Yes. And you are too. So am I. We are all ugly. We all walk with a limp. We are all a mess. I promise you, people’s Facebook statuses aren’t giving you the whole picture. It’s not that people are lying — it’s just that social media isn’t the best place to lay out all your dirt. If someone you know has it all together, you simply don’t know them well enough yet.
But in the midst of our ugliness, Jesus in his infinite wisdom has provided us for one another to insulate us a bit when we fall out of the truck.
You may be reading this, feeling very alone, and feeling like you simply don’t have an ugly sweater right now. I really get that.
I’m praying with you today that maybe God will give you one for Christmas this year.