The blessed emery board of time has rubbed the sharp edges off the memory so at least I don’t go into full blown rigor mortis anymore at the recollection, but still it remains exclusively and completely at the Number One Position forever and always as
I almost can’t write about it. But I’m strapped to my desk chair and am hoping for some kind of blessed relief when I finally get it written down and release it into the atmosphere of “out there-ness.”
Actually there are a few hundred people who already know about it but thankfully some of them have already gone to Jesus. I mean, I loved them and everything, but you know . . . And it’s indubitably been passed down in lunchroom folklore.
If any of you reading this recall that blessed day in 1991 and want to add your two cents, better do it now and get it over with because hereafter I’m calling myself healed from the horror. The book will be closed.
Are ya ready? Anticipation at capacity? Okay. Here we go.
If you’ve ever given birth you may have experienced the phenomenon of what I like to call “brain cell drainage.” It can make you selectively oblivious. And if you’ve had multiple babies and juggled a job and a commute and trying to remember to not only get the three of them fed and dressed and into car seats and yourself fed and dressed and into the driver’s seat and then suddenly taken a six-week maternity leave from doing all that and then tried to bounce back and accomplish it flawlessly again on your way to a baby shower at your place of employment across the city, well then, maybe you can relate.
Thus the scene is set. My wonderful co-workers at Nazarene International Headquarters on the 4th floor of the Plaza building in KCMO were waiting for me to show up with the darling newborn whom, over the last nine months, had caused me to turn into the Hindenburg (but wearing nylons and no earrings, because, hey, Naz Headquarters). My three precious-ness-es and I were on our way (running a bit late) and the first stop was to be the Nazarene Day Care at the top of the hill where the two elder darlings were to be dropped off to play with friends for the duration of the baby shower. Perfect plan.
Now I ask you . . . when you drive into a parking lot where you’ve driven many hundreds of multiple times before, do you not do it rather robotically, sort of by habit? Doesn’t your faithful minivan know the route by heart? An autopilot sort of thing? You hang a right off of The Paseo in between the Globe building and the General Board building, cross between their parking lots and follow the road past what used to be the Naz Bookstore right on up the winding hill to the Plaza building. Right? Just like you’ve done a jillion times before. Five days a week for years. Sometimes even on Saturday when you’re behind deadline. So, a lot. And when you’re late for a baby shower thrown in your honor and there’s kid noise in the car . . .
and and and . . .
Before I get to the crux of the thing, let me just say, it wasn’t unusual to see worker men out doing “stuff” on the Headquarters campus. “Stuff” always needed doing. So when people in orange vests are just milling around in your peripheral vision, what’s the big whoop? And . . . here’s the biggie . . .
THERE WERE NO PYLONS OR CAUTION TAPE SET UP IN FRONT OF IT.
Yes, that’s right. All four tires went into it. Freshly poured wet cement. A beautiful new roadway snaking its way up the hill. Probably a work of art in the world of concrete masters. The Mona Lisa of cement. I imagine the last lick and promise had just been applied and the guys had turned to retrieve the necessary pylons and caution tape. Enter the Mitchell van.
In case you’ve not had the privilege of sinking all four tires of a minivan into freshly poured concrete, let me tell you that it pretty much stops you dead in your tracks. Deep tracks. And also another thing. People come running. And shouting.
(I’m taking a pause here. Not sure if I need to go throw up but I’ll be back in a minute to finish this.)
Okay I’m back.
There’s noise inside the van. There’s noise outside the van. I’m feeling strangely warm like I did once when the next thing I knew was waking up to the aroma of smelling salts. No blessed relief of unconsciousness this time though.
I guess the worker men understood their creation was a ruination at that point because everybody was tromping through it like torch-carrying villagers out to extract Frankenstein from the castle. The word “chaos” comes to mind. Then I saw Roland.
The sight of Roland, the head maintenance man at Headquarters, brought hope to my heart because A) he was not one of the orange-vested men shouting “flowery” words at me and B) he was not one of the crowd of onlookers who had poured out of the buildings and abandoned their posts just to gawk (thank you, Lord, for no cell phones and Twitter) and C) he was there to help.
Roland hollered above the other holler-ers and told me to back it out quick no matter the mess and that’s what I did. Ay yi yi. There was a MESS. Of an extraordinary quantity and quality. The next few minutes are a blur because somehow we got the children out of the van, somebody took us up to the daycare to drop off the older two, took the baby and me to our celebratory shower at my office, all while Roland saved my life. He zoomed that minivan to the nearest car wash, throwing wet cement everywhere, and brought it back unscathed. That episode could’ve easily ruined the under carriage of a van we couldn’t afford anyway. I won’t ever forget Roland.
I don’t remember the baby shower. To say that I was a mess does not do the word “mess” justice. To say that I was horrified does not do the word “understatement” justice. If there had been a permanent rock to crawl under, you would’ve never seen me again. There were children that needed raising though so I had to keep doing that sort of stuff. It did help a little that one of my former bosses eventually started grinning and calling it the “Molly Mitchell Memorial Highway” because I knew then that a contract probably hadn’t been put out on my life by either the cement guys or the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene who bore the brunt of paying for two roadways that spring. Even little snickers around the office coffee pot were more of a comfort than dreams of orange-vested assailants.
After that day any semblance of pride or haughtiness in my spirit slipped away down the drain of the car wash along with a short ton of what was supposed to be a road. Never one to enjoy being the brunt of a joke or a surprise or anything that suddenly spotlighted me, even if it was in good spirit, I suffered. The enjoyment I gained from my job, the wonderful relationships with coworkers, some of whom became lifelong friends, was tainted by this blot of humiliation. This undeniable story of stories. This stamp of permanent, “Oh you mean THAT Molly. Yes, I’ve heard of her. Ha ha ha.”
God in His sovereign wisdom did not set me up to drive my vanful of children into wet cement that sunshiny day in May of 1991 in order to ruin several peoples’ week or to thrash my self image or even to teach me a lesson as I write about it nearly 30 years later. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t stick His heavenly foot out to trip us and humiliate us into closer relationship with Him. Far from it. Ridiculous. Here though is what my takeaway has been over the years.
It boils down to Before Concrete and After Concrete.
B.C. I walked about six inches off the floor at all times around the office. Proud of accomplishments. Proud of my name on the plate outside my door. Proud of children. Proud of involvement at church. Proud of getting my mom to be proud of me. Proud proud proud.
A.C. I felt the carpet under my feet for the first time as my hovering above people came to an end and I was introduced to the concept of empathy. A whole new world.
No one was aware of these changes taking place in me or that the whole Wet Cement saga had been that big a deal. It seriously was probably just a funny thing that happened and got cataloged as so (unless the Nazarene Archives guy, Stan, was there with his camera) and everyone went on with their lives. I never went back to work full-time but stayed home with my three little ones and did freelance work once in a while. It was planned that way even before the Day of the You-Know-What.
I do, however, have greater appreciation for the sovereignty of God in this world than I did during those younger years, partly because I’m older and have had lots of “Wet Cement” types of days since then and have learned to deal with them without wishing I could faint and just go unconscious for the duration. There’s still no doubt in my mind that He’s not here to trip us up. But thankfully I’m not as afraid of the Old Testament scriptures that used to frighten me, such as what we see in portions of Isaiah when the prophet is warning people about God’s coming judgement against their rebellion. Isaiah tells it like it is. I like that guy.
I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
–Isaiah 13:11 NIV
That’s some heavy stuff right there, boys and girls. And when taken out of context, plucked from the wider scripture in which it lives, it seems fierce and angry and just like a God who is out to get us. Dear ones, this is not so. If you are a student of the Bible or if you are a beginner who is searching, please listen closely as I say that you must remember to take it as a whole, as an entirety, and do not pick and choose verses with words that look like they might fit your particular situation or feelings. Scripture does indeed come alongside us in our deep need. No question about that. Just make sure you are grasping it as it is intended–the story of God, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit sent to remain here on earth with us until Jesus returns. That being said, Isaiah spent quite a lot of his time pointing out to folks their gone-wrong-ness (an example chapter is the one the above verse came from) and another wonderful portion telling them of the coming Savior on whose shoulders the world rests. Please read Isaiah. Study it. For me.
The Book of Proverbs is a bit of an exception as far as picking and choosing. Most of these are wise sayings written by Solomon intended to teach people how to live godly lives. Try this one in the context of my Wet Cement humiliation:
First pride, then the crash–the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.
Proverbs 16:18 The Message
Every day of our lives, whether funny/not funny, uplifting or defeating, can serve to give us instruction about how to live the next day. My own lesson in humility came at a good time and in sort of a “2 x 4 across the head” way that not everybody needs. I’m a slow learner. Subtleties were not my strong suit back in the day. I’m better now. Maybe you’ve heard of a guy named John Wesley. He’s important in the building blocks of the Church of the Nazarene, my home church, my family. I’ll leave you with this.