Murphy's Law promises, "If anything can go wrong, it will—at the most inopportune time." Which basically means Murphy’s to blame for the groom who gets hiccups while saying his wedding vows. And it’s Murphy who dictates that an offering plate is never dropped until it's filled with coins. And it’s Murphy who decided that if the weather is bad, church attendance will be bad; and if the weather is good, church attendance will still be bad; but if the bulletins are in short supply, church attendance will exceed all expectations.
When I arrived late on a Saturday night to candidate as pastor for my church, Murphy was at the airport to greet me. My luggage had been conveniently lost. My host, a rather large man, graciously loaned me a suit to wear for my first Sunday in the pulpit. The gargantuan pants made me look more clownish than pastoral. Fortunately, the suit coat covered my bunched-up waistline. But because the jacket was three sizes too big the sleeve would slide down over my fingers with each hand gesture.
Murphy’s Law also has cousins, or hybrid versions. For example, "If something can't go wrong, it will anyway, and in the worst possible sequence." Dear Abby proved this point by reprinting a four-day-long typographical nightmare made by a small-town newspaper:
• Monday—For Sale - R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Phone 948-0707 after 7:00 pm and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him cheap.
• Tuesday—Notice - We regret having erred in R.D. Jones' ad yesterday. It should have read, "One sewing machine for sale cheap. Phone 948-0707 and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him after 7:00 pm.
• Wednesday—Notice - R.D. Jones has informed us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of the error we made in his classified ad yesterday. The ad stands corrected as follows: "For Sale - R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 948-0707 after 7:00 pm and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves with him.
• Thursday—Notice - I, R.D. Jones, have no sewing machine for sale. I smashed it. Don't call 948-0707, as the telephone has been taken out. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Kelly. Until yesterday she was my housekeeper, but she quit.
R.D. Jones knew Murphy well.
In pastoring, things can go wrong and often do. Murphy, it would appear is a card-carrying member of every church. And if he’s not busy fraternizing with our people, then he’s banging on our office door.
The temptation is to run as far from him as possible.
But the call to ministry was never an invitation to a trouble-free life. It’s a calling to serve His sheep. And though this calling comes with a barrel full of troubles it also comes with His continual help and constant presence. Whereas our role of under-shepherd is important, the under-shepherd is also a sheep in need of a Shepherd.
What a contrast between Murphy's Laws and Solomon's Proverbs:
• Murphy believes in quick-fix Band-Aids. “Cut an object large and kick it into place." • Solomon approaches problems differently: “Acquire wisdom. Honor her and she will embrace you."
• Murphy thinks strategic planning is overrated: "If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done." • Solomon takes a different approach. "Lazy people get what they deserve, while the diligent prosper."
• Murphy has a ‘tude about a pastor’s family: "Why is one child not nearly enough but two are far too many?" • Solomon, on the other hand, says, "How blessed are the sons of a righteous man."
• Murphy sees problem-solving from a cynical view: "Inside every small problem is a larger problem struggling to get out." • Solomon's says, "Don’t start something you can't finish. Wait for the advice of others. Whatever you do, do it well."
An eternal work deserves timeless principles and faithful laborers. There's no shortcut to effective pastoring, good teaching and holy living. The idea of greener pastures certainly has its allure, but as someone once said ...
"If I traveled to the end of the rainbow As lady fortune did intend, Murphy would be there to tell me The pot of gold is at the other end."