A zipper in time

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, October 4, 2023

By Les Ferguson, Jr.

Let me set the scene—the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gulfport to be precise. We were at church that Sunday morning and I was the preacher.

It wasn’t quite the Mississippi Squirrel Revival of Ray Stevens’ fame, but it was close. Instead of a squirrel, you had me in all my inglorious glory. 

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We didn’t have a pulpit on stage because I was in my “I-don’t-want-anything-between-me-and-the-people” phase. Maybe a bit pretentious on my part, but so integral to the story. 

So, there I was that Sunday morning. It was a beautiful Gulf Coast Day, and we had a sizable crowd in worship. I got up to preach and was hit with a case of nerves like I hadn’t felt in years. 

Friends, I was a nervous, anxious mess. I probably looked like the squirrel in the infamous Pascagoula revival. I was all over the map in my delivery, but we muddled through without a single thrown tomato, how, I don’t know. 

After the service, one of my leaders pulled me quietly aside and asked if I was okay. It was obvious to him that I had unusually struggled that morning. At that point, I was just relieved it was over. 

The problem was the week before. That Sunday I had preached the entire sermon with my zipper very obviously down. I stood on stage with nothing between me and my fellow worshippers—and if a wardrobe malfunction could have been more obvious, well, I don’t want to know about it. Thankfully that day I had no idea I was a spectacle in progress. At least until the service was over.

But the next Sunday? During the entire sermon, I was terrified, worried, and certain that my fly was open again. And since there was no pulpit to hide behind, I couldn’t surreptitiously check. Oh, the misery. I needed a Ray Stevens squirrel to make an appearance.

That was at least twenty years ago. In the intervening years, I’ve managed to not mortify myself or others with another zipper misfortune. Until a week ago this past Sunday. 

This time it wasn’t forgetfulness, but a genuine “oh no” zipper failure. Just before it was time to preach, my zipper broke. In the down position.

I’ll admit to a brief, intense momentary panic. The proverbial “my-life-flashed-before-my-eyes” kind of horror. But then, I swallowed my pride, straightened up the best I could, marched myself to the front of our church auditorium, and to the laughter of my church family, announced: “I stand before you today, and my zipper is broken.”

Dignity is sometimes hard to maintain and as the old cliche says, laughter is the best medicine. However, we both know it’s not always easy to laugh and sometimes we’d rather the laughter not be at our expense.

I survived that day and rose again to preach this past Sunday triumphant with all clothing intact and appropriately secure. I hope to remain that way in the future.

But as I think about these events, I’m reminded that life can be just like a zipper. Sometimes it’s up. Sometimes it’s down. And sometimes it’s just simply broken.

Thankfully God is ever present in our calamities—and as the Psalmist says, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1 NIV)

I don’t know much about Irish blessings, but I can give you one from Paris, MS… May the squirrels be kept at bay, and may all your zippers be secure!

God bless—have a great week!