I didn’t say it to him, because he was my boss and a pastor. I didn’t raise my voice and I remained seated, but mentally, I was on my feet and my emotions were rising precipitously.
You want me to do what? I questioned silently … with exasperation and, admittedly, a bit of resentment.
As he continued to describe what was to be my role in leading the opening sessions of each morning’s Vacation Bible School assembly, I knew I’d heard him right. Nonetheless, I still couldn’t believe it. He wanted me (me!) to portray a pink hippopotamus named Miss Hippo, as I encouraged VBSers in a fun romp through the Bible each day, engaging their imaginations and their hearts. My attitude would be key in setting the tone for the morning, and letting the kids know that learning about the Bible could be fun. I also knew that some children had never set foot in a church before, so how they were welcomed was important.
But a pink hippopotamus?
Good grief! I was the church’s Director of Christian Education, and formerly the Executive Director of the world’s largest airport USO. It was hard enough to have left a full-time career at forty to raise our baby daughter. I missed the personal accolades and professional camaraderie. But far more, I missed a fulfilling sense of purpose in serving America’s military and their families. I had taken this part-time church job of supervising Sunday School teachers and, in my arrogance, considered it a step down.
And now God was permitting my utter humiliation in playing a Pepto-Bismol pink mammoth mammal in front of a multitude of children and their teachers. It was embarrassing, and I almost refused.
But the Holy Spirit instantly reminded me that my ultimate purpose is to glorify Him, and He is glorified when I am mortified.
God had taught me that painful lesson numerous times in the past, because I was filled with pride. But God also showed me time and again, that mortification, in its truest sense, doesn’t involve shame and degradation. Mortification means “putting to death.” Now the Lord was asking me to die to myself, to my selfish aspirations in this job, for the sake of others, because He had something special in mind. My work at the church was not about me and what I considered purposeful, but all about Him and His purposes for His little children.
Reluctantly, I surrendered to God and never complained to the pastor. I donned a perky pink wig and adopted a high-pitched hippo voice, like Miss Piggy on steroids. And for the next two weeks I hippo high-fived my way down the center aisle of the church, slapping hands with eager kids and shouting a friendly hippo-hello on my way to the pulpit. Day after day, I watched the children’s wide-eyed wonder as Miss Hippo shared exciting Bible passages, bringing ancient stories and characters to animated life. The kids grew more excited by the day, and I grew more humbled. God brought a number of children to Himself that summer.
When I died to my own purposes and served God’s, even when I didn’t want to, He got all the glory. Isn’t that our purpose: to glorify God no matter what?
Explanation of the Hippopotamus Hypothesis: I believe that the Lord gives each of us a specific purpose by which we glorify Him. This purpose remains constant. I also believe He gives us various missions at certain times in our lives through which we flesh out this purpose. I do not believe that God generally has called me to work with children. I exercise my purpose and gifts in serving women. But when God asked me to work as a Director of Christian Education for a short time (and, of all things, as a pink hippo!), it was not my option to tell him: “This is not my calling. I do not do pink hippos.” As Christians, we should be willing to serve the Lord in whatever way He directs, whenever He asks us, regardless of whether or not it is in His usual job description for us. Humility is a trait He desires in all Christians.
Lynn D. Morrissey
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