by Backbench Willie WormwoodHi, Preacher: Boy, was I surprised when you invited the congregation to tell you what was on our minds! Man! I’ve been coming here to church, man and boy, for a lot of years now, and I never thought one of you—now, don’t take this too personal, Preacher, when I say one of you pulpit professionals—well, I never thought you’d ask. I didn’t think you really wanted to know. But now you have asked, and I’m finally gonna tell you. After all these years of shaking your hand and saying “Great message, Preacher!” when inside my soul was quivering from yet another hiding, yet another session in the wood shed, of being told what my shortcomings are…. You see, Preacher, I’m tired of being reminded that I don’t love my neighbor as I ought…that I shouldn’t get angry, that I shouldn’t be tempted by this or that temptation. I’m fed up with being told I need to be more forgiving, more charitable, more loving…in short, that I need to be more Christ-like. Do you think I don’t know that? I read the Beatitudes too—or at least, I used to, before I got so discouraged about the impossibility of it all. I can remember, though it seems so long ago now, how thrilled I was when someone preached about the Exchanged Life—how we were to “let go, and let God” make things all clean and pure inside. Oh, how I tried, Preacher! Tried, and failed; tried, and failed; until now I don’t know if I can try again. But I would try again, in a heartbeat, if I thought it would really “take” this time! You don’t know how sick I am of living in the seventh chapter of Romans—of knowing what I ought to be like, on the inside, but not seeing it happen. Tell me, if you know, how to get out of chapter seven and into chapter eight. Please tell me how…if you know. You know, sometimes I wonder, as you stand up there behind the pulpit, if you know the secret—or if you’re putting on, like the rest of us. (I know, I know: I shouldn’t be so judgmental—that’s another of my failings—there I go, assuming that everyone is in the same boat with me. And I don’t know that. Everybody dresses up so nice and seems so good on the outside… maybe they’re that way on the inside. Or maybe they just have their masks nicely adjusted, the same way I do.) Do you wear a mask, too, Preacher ? Well, that’s about it. You did ask for it. But now that I’ve come to the end of what I’ve wanted to say to…somebody…for ages, I find I can’t quite get my mask off and sign my real name. So I’ll just sign myself… Back-bench Willie Wormwood P.S.: I don’t really expect this note to make any difference. You’ll probably go on saying the same things, and I’ll probably go on shaking your hand afterward and saying, “Great message, Preacher.” Only, if you do know how we can break out of Romans seven, please let us know! Please!