I saw it one day in our young sons’ bedroom closet. It was hanging with the clear dry cleaning plastic over it, but I could see that it was pink chiffon and it was tiny. I have never been that dress size.
HH and I were the parents of three youngish children at the time and we were serving two different congregations. Life was busy. There was laundry to wash. There were sermons to write.
For months I saw that tiny pink dress hanging in the boys’ closet and I kept thinking that I should probably ask somebody about it, but there was too much going on. The moment I left the boys’ room, my brain moved on to the next thing.
It was literally hanging in that closet for over a year until I finally asked HH, “What’s up with that tiny pink dress hanging in the boys’ closet?” He didn’t know what I was talking about.
We both went to find the dress and there it was. And it took HH a minute to remember.
“Oh! There was a controversy when ___ died about what she should wear in the (closed) casket. Her sisters wanted her to wear a blue dress and her son wanted her to wear a pink dress. And the sisters won. But they didn’t want the son to know that they had asked the funeral director to change his mother from the pink dress to the blue dress. And so they handed me the pink dress and asked me to hide it. So I brought it home.”
So here is the thing:
- Nobody had noticed the dress but me, even though everybody in the family had been in that closet.
- I had noticed the dress but didn’t consider it an emergency situation. (i.e. I was pretty sure that neither my HH nor my kids had had a size two Significant Other they were hiding.)
- Our closets needed to be cleaned out.
- Sometimes family secrets are ridiculous. (But many times they are not.) And either way, we need to address them.
I consider this story a metaphor for ministry. If we fail to notice “the elephant in the room” how much more do we fail to notice the pink dress in the closet?
The Good News: I trusted my spouse and knew that the little dress wasn’t a souvenir from Vegas (or whatever.) The Not-So-Good News: Being intentional about our closets takes work and focus. And it’s unhealthy when families can’t let go of the ridiculous. Was changing a dead woman’s casket outfit really worth the trouble?
Trust is essential whether we are talking about our spiritual leaders or our family members. And we need to grapple with conflicts in the open together.
We gave the dress to Goodwill.
May your closets be organized and may you address what you find there sooner than later.