Saturday, May 06, 2006

"Living in Victory," Chapter 8

Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.
All rights reserved

Chapter 8
I returned the second Sunday, buoyed by the idea I was actually given the title of “minister” and the prestige that went with it. It was a title I planned to enjoy for the next two years before graduation. It might even look good on my resume, when I applied for a job on a big newspaper in Chicago or maybe St. Louis. Maybe Indianapolis wasn’t too far away. Maybe I could get a job working for the Star and continue preaching Sundays at Victory.
It was on the second visit to Victory that I met – her.
She was the most breathtaking creature I had ever seen. I first noticed her face.
Most people think a guy looks elsewhere before he gets around to looking at a woman’s face. That is not true, at least it wasn’t true of me.
I found her attractive beyond degree and wondered how the church could function when she was in the congregation. Obviously, all the men didn’t see her as I did. They must be blind.
By some judicious inquiry, I learned she and her family, the Rogerses, had been on vacation and were not present the previous Sunday, when I spoke.
I first saw her between Sunday school and church.
I once again had sat I the sanctuary during Sunday school, with the 30-somethings, forgetting to ask if there were a more age-appropriate class for me to attend.
When the superintendent rang the electric bell a second time at 10:30, she made her way from the Sunday school rooms into the sanctuary. I had turned just in time to see her and could not believe me eyes.
She was wearing a bright red skirt with white blouse and was giggling and chatting with other young people in the Sunday school’s high school class. Her fine red hair looked like spun glass on her shoulders. She shone brighter than a Christmas tree.
I tried not to stare and make a fool of myself, but it was hard.
I did get beyond her face that Sunday. The rest of her was beautiful, too. She seemed to be elegant and youthful at once. What a wonderful combination, I thought.
I couldn’t find the courage to introduce myself after church, though I did see she didn’t sit with a particular guy, but with two or three girlfriends.
Then I learned one of the real benefits of being the minister – the new minister – at a church. She found out who I was without me having to introduce myself.
As I was shaking people out the front door – it was the minister’s job to greet the congregation as they left the building, I was told – she left with her friends.
I must have blushed when my hand touched hers, for she laughed, her blue eyes dancing ash she took my hand.
“Hi,” I said. “I’m Kelly, and you’re--?”
“I’m glad to meet you, Reverend,” she said, giving me only a moment to lightly touch her hand.
And then she was gone. There were other folks who had comments on my sermon but I was off in another world, a world with only two people.
I could see us dining in a green pasture on a perfect day. The grass was the right height and there were no animals around to disturb us or leave droppings that we might step in. It was a perfect day and we sat on a red and white-checkered cloth that perfectly accented her skirt.
But the weekend was nearly over, I would soon drive back to Illinois and would not see her again for at least another week.
On the next Sunday, I thought I was actually getting into the drill:
Get up at 4 a.m. (I’ve never gotten up at 5 a.m.!) Get on the road by 6:30 a.m. Arrive at Victory by 9:30, just in time for their 9:45 a.m. Sunday school.
But, with confidence sometimes comes overconfidence, I found out.
About the time I got to Waynetown, I rubbed my jaw while thinking and realized – I forgot to shave!
Fortunately, I found a store that was open; one that sold shaving supplies. I still had the problem of actually shaving. I knew the one bathroom at the church would be used frequently enough that I couldn’t take the time to shave in it. Besides, the hot water supply didn’t reach the main floor where the rest rooms were located.
What to do? What to do?
I stopped at the corner of 25 and 136, where I normally turned south to Victory. An abandoned gas station set on the right side of the road. I would shave there, in the parking lot. Quickly I found out one cannot shave in compact cars, like my Pinto. What to do? I had an outside mirror!
So, using a rag I found under a seat (a fairly clean rag), I shaved using my can of shaving cream and disposable razor. I knelt down, being careful to not get my right knee dirty, and twisted the mirror outward, so I could see in it and took care of my toiletry right there, even as the good folk of Waynetown drove past. A few cars honked and I waved, assuming the drivers were friendly Hoosiers, greeting me in rural fashion.
Not knowing our church very well, yet, I learned that was not the case. By the time I arrived at our church, I realized I had broken the myth of the poised and gracious pastor.
The honkers were members of our congregation and I knew I would never be considered in the same light again. Instead of being embarrassed, I should have been relieved. My act of embarrassment was one of endearment in their eyes.