I found a job on Friday at a restaurant that was closed on Sundays. Keeping my word to Ms. Hardin, I found myself mounting the steps toward two Sunday morning hours in a small local community church. All the worshipers slowed at the door. Closing ranks with those going through the door, I noticed why. The pastor of the church was shaking people's hands as they entered. That's different! I felt a bit of excitement rising in me. Something special here?
I reached my hand and looked into the pastor's face to make a connection. His eyes clearly focused on my forehead. He's hiding, too! The brief excitement evaporated. I found my place in the pews for announcements before everyone sorted out for Sunday school rooms. I cared little for the sick being mentioned nor the planned mid-summer vacation Bible school that needed volunteers. A scene from my stay in rural Georgia replayed in my mind's eye.
I recalled the afternoon sun chasing summer-like heat into my friend's rented house. The month was May, and already the landlord's field across the dirt road brimmed with waves of green hay. I imagined a breeze while I waited on the porch for four o’clock to send me to work. A white, four door sedan pushed along by a billowing dust cloud moved down the road and turned in the driveway. Three men emerged.
One man in a simple striped tie and white shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows, climbed the stairs to greet me. The other two men, matched in garb but minus ties, warily hung back on the porch steps, watching. Three heads of closely cropped hair and the pocket testament held against a full-sized black Bible in the first man's hands told me what was about to happen.
"Hello, Son." He reached to shake my hand while his eyes scanned my forehead looking for a place to land; I reached back. "I'm Pastor Dell Griffin of Bethel Church out on the highway." Pastor Griffin broke our handshake to gesture toward the men behind him. "These men here are deacons of our church."
"Hello," one man muffled while both nodded.
Pastor Griffin turned back to me and focused directly on the my eyebrows. "Concern for your eternal soul has prompted today's visit, Son." Pause. "Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" Glancing back at the other two men, I had an impression of this pastor on a deacon's leash.
I considered personifying my eyebrows clearly holding Pastor Griffin's intent stare and answering, "Yes, we do." I knew he wouldn't get the joke. Seeking to chase this threesome away quickly, I simply said, "Yes."
"Well, very good." Pastor Griffin seemed relieved to be able to give me the last line. "On behalf of your brothers and sisters at Bethel, I wanted to give you a little gift." He passed me the New Testament. He mentioned times for Sunday school and the main service, and they left.
The opening prayer pulled me back to the present. I studied where I was, how it felt, what it meant to be here. In me were a tumble of conflicting feelings. I had been reading that little pocket testament off and on for a year. I occasionally attempted to sort out whether or not God would take me back. That brief moment of something-different-here excitement lay as a small pile of broken glass shards inside me. I was ready to sweep that away and move on, but walking down the hall looking for a door labeled "Young Adult Class," I realized that lost excitement bothered me. I found my class, and anger's heat steeped my feelings into a strong brew of resentment. Why do some pastors hide?