Salty, Uncomfortable StainsM. Stanley Bubien
And I fled the service. The sunlight outside flash-blinded me, and I lifted a hand to block it. Squinting, hand still raised, I charged forward, tie flapping behind as I jogged toward the single oak which provided the sole shade upon the whole church-grounds.
There, against its bark, I fell, carelessly staining my slacks as I pulled knees to chest and buried head into arms.
When I had been within the crescendo of the building, "Jesus!" our pastor, Bob, had cried. "Jeeessuuuusss!" he'd repeated, drawling the name for impact, "is here! Yes! Right here! In our midst! Brethren!"
"Amens!" reigned with the Gospel choir's rhythm; bodies swayed, many with arms outstretched, while still more flashed smiles as though the light of Christ beamed directly from their faces.
"Amen!" Pastor Bob echoed, throwing hands, fingers extended, heavenward. "Amen! He honors our song! He... Is... Here!"
And calls of "Preach it, brother!" and "Hallelujah!" followed. But Pastor Bob paused, bringing arms slowly down, lowering his voice. "What?" he whispered while the choir quieted to a hum. "What?" he gestured across the congregation, "are you to do? He's here! The Lord, Jesus. Yes he is." And his voice raised again. "Right in front of you! Each and every one!" And lower, "What will you say to Him?" And higher, "He's here! Yes! Speak to Him, brother's and sister! Tell Him your heart!"
He spun in a circle, and the choir erupted into song, carrying the congregation into a charismatic frenzy. And I felt it---a flushing in my cheeks, a heavy draw of breath, a skipping of heartbeat---physical sensation inspired only of the Spirit.
But that same Spirit revealed me---purely, wholly, honestly as I was---and I knew that Pastor Bob spoke Truth. Jesus was here. With a shout, like a naked man upon a stage, I covered my face, fingers digging into my brow. As the fellowship continued their praises, I too called aloud, but the words I spoke were those of Peter.
"Flee from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"
The din drowned my voice.
I screamed again the decree, yet unable to hear even myself. Glancing across the swaying mass, a moment of logic manifested---in begging the Lord to flee from me, I also begged Him to flee from these, my Christian family. Impulse took over; I pushed down the aisle, rushed the doorway, and fled the service.
Yet, even here, shaded by the oak, I could hear their song, vibrating from the paper-thin walls of our humble building. I shifted my weight, trying not to listen as tears wet my forearms.
Hard and long I cried, oh, so very long, for a warmth eventually crept upon me. Lifting my head, I realized that the shade had moved aside and the sunlight beamed once more upon me. Wiping my nose, I gazed into its light---again flash-blinded, but rather than blocking the rays, I closed my eyes. And presently, I felt a tickling; for it was the trail of tears evaporating, leaving behind their salty, uncomfortable stains.
Copyright ©1999 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.
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