Sunday Morning

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The tattered remains of his soul was limp within him. No longer was it useful, no longer could it have any purpose or provide any counsel. It was done with, it was destroyed. The effects of the previous months had shattered him from the inside. Though his body was not harmed, and indeed he may have yet before him a fruitful existence, the soul that provides true essence was lost, it was gone. And it was the very doctors of the soul which had succeeded in finally ridding it in this man.

He had approached his first taste of church with some caution. It was not really his first time, but it was the first visit in so long that he thought of it as his first. He had been a part of all the celebrations, and meetings, and events when he was a child, when his mother and father took him along with them as they sought answers to their own profound unanswerable issues. The memories of the older women in their Sunday dresses and large hats fawning over him, being included at times in the conversations of the older men, making him feel grown up, still filled him with a vague warm glow.

He sang all the songs, even won some prizes for being the best at memorizing some Scripture passages. “So God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,” he still could say. He knew the basics, said The Prayer, but when his parents left when he was 12 he left with them. The questions in their soul went apparently unanswered, as their divorce soon after seemed to indicate. There was no question about his going back once he hit high school. The Christians, everyone called them, were a rather sanctimonious bunch in general, and their parties were simply terrible. More of the exact same stuff he did as an 8 year old, except trying to be a little more ‘contemporary’. They sang songs, they gathered around the pole and prayed. There were of course people who weren’t like this, but they were the exception.

So here he was sitting in a church, newly built following a faux Spanish mission look, invited by a friend from work, a cute friend, a friend he would like to get to know more. Her long blonde hair and infectious smile caught him the moment he first saw her, but she had some deep spiritual leanings, which always seemed to get in the way of quick romantic pursuits. If putting on the religious show was something he needed to do to get things moving, then he would play that game as long as needed. The churchly affect was rusty, but recoverable. He sat there in the blue chairs, padded and modular, singing, listening, shaking the hands of those around him. The pews he recalled from when he was young were lost in a more vague business seminar kind of atmosphere. He was also surprised not to see a cross, or any of the other typical accoutrements of the old time religion. Names were exchanged, as were smiles, but he didn’t really remember who anyone was by the time he sat down. There was only one name he cared about, and hers he already knew.

She raised her hands when she was singing. That surprised him. Her face lit up as she followed the words on the screen in front; there was a glow about her, a radiance which he could not identify. At that moment she seemed in a different world, a better world. Watching her he forgot his plan, forgot his purpose in watching her anytime before this, and stood enraptured by her effulgence of soul.

The song ended, he still stared. She lowered her arms, a smile on her face, staring still forward for a moment longer than one would normally expect. There was another man walking up on the stage. As the apparent pastor moved towards the podium, she looked over and stared into his eyes, with intensity. The radiance in her face passed through her gaze, piercing his heart in the briefest of moments. He had been pierced by a woman’s gaze before but this was something different. It was something both subtler and more profound.

The man on stage started mumbling something. It was clear, but it did not break the reverie of that moment of divine interaction. People started sitting down, so he broke the gaze and sat down as well, staring now at the back of the chair in front of him, not at all sure what it was he just experienced. She opened the program some attendants handed the two of them when they walked in, and started reading it.

The pastor up front changed his tone, becoming at once more ‘official’, the tone of his voice modulating with authority and power, tingeing a distinctive and personable style. The physical aspects were the same as he remembered. Immaculate grooming and expensive suits were still required so as to give an air of authority and spirituality through the medium of fashion.

He spoke for a moment on something; the man didn’t catch it as his mind still raced around. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” the pastor began to read with enthusiasm, “I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The pastor looked up from the Bible on the podium in front of him, “The Word of the Lord.”

“Thanks be to God,” everyone responded in unison.

As the pastor finished, the man’s heart was somehow enlivened in a new way.

That’s what it was, he realized to himself, that’s what I saw in her – the peace of God. I saw it, I felt it in her.

The rapture of his earliest days, the singing, the listening, the talking to the earnest leaders who had him memorize all those passages came flowing back in him. He forgot about his machinations, and realized he wanted that peace for himself. It was all he could do to sit through the rest of the sermon, which didn’t seem to relate very much to the passage which was read. His legs bounced, he was jittery, because he wanted to be able to share this feeling with someone. He just about forgot the woman was sitting next to him as he pondered this driving peace in his heart.

When the sermon ended, and one last song was sung, the pastor raised his arms and gave a farewell blessing. The service was over.

Leaning into the woman by his side, he whispered to her, “I’m gonna go say something to the pastor, it won’t take long.”

She didn’t say anything, but did smile, that same smile, and put her hand on his knee for the briefest second before he stood and made his way to the front.

The pastor was chatting with some well-coifed couple when the man finally got up to the front, but as the pastor saw the intent in the man’s eyes, he quickly knew the priority for conversation.

Disengaging himself swiftly yet politely the pastor took a step and shook the man’s hand.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before. I’m Pastor Fred.”

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